Juneteenth celebration unveils mural honoring Black country music artists

A new mural by local artist Elisheba Israel Mrozik, inspired by the stories of Black country music artists featured in Vanderbilt professor and award-winning songwriter Alice Randall’s latest book, My Black Country, will be unveiled at a Juneteenth celebration on June 19. 

Vanderbilt’s Division of Government and Community Relations will host the special event at Vanderbilt Printing Services, 625 Chestnut St. in Nashville, from 4 to 5 p.m. The celebration is free and open to the public.

The First Family of Black Country mural unveiling is the result of a partnership between Vanderbilt, Randall and Mrozik. The event will feature remarks from several distinguished speakers, including Metro Council member Terry Vo, country music artist Carlos DeFord Bailey, who is the grandson of trailblazing country music star DeFord Bailey, and Vanderbilt Vice Chancellor Nathan Green. Mrozik and Randall, who is a writer-in-residence in African American and diaspora studies at Vanderbilt, are also scheduled to appear.

 To commemorate the occasion, Vanderbilt will provide free copies of My Black Country to the first 100 people to arrive at the event. Additionally, Vanderbilt Special Collections will be on-site with facsimiles from the Vanderbilt Heard Libraries’ archival collections, offering those in attendance a glimpse into the rich legacy of Black communities’ contributions to music, history and culture.

Alice Randall (photo by John Partipilo)

 “Juneteenth celebrates good news at long last. This mural celebrates the very good and very Nashville news that African Americans have played crucial and essential roles in the development of country music,” Randall said. “This city is rich in murals and other public art. This is the first piece of public art to honor and commemorate the first family of Black country: DeFord Bailey, Lil Hardin, Ray Charles, Herb Jeffries and Charley Pride. Every artist working in country today owes a debt to these five geniuses.” 

 The Juneteenth event will celebrate the powerful influence of Black artists on the origins of country music. As the genre experiences a renaissance, with a new wave of Black artists gaining success, the First Family of Black Country mural and Juneteenth joint programming are a vibrant introduction for a new generation of listeners and a treasured gift for Nashville.