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Dynamite Nashville

Dynamite Nashville

Unmasking the FBI, the KKK, and the Bombers Beyond Their Control

by Betsy Phillips
Publication Date: 16/07/2024

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On September 10, 1957, Hattie Cotton Elementary School in Nashville, Tennessee, blew up. On March 16, 1958, the Jewish Community Center was bombed. On April 19, 1960, the home of Civil Rights attorney and Nashville city councilman, Z. Alexander Looby was dynamited. He and his wife were lucky to escape with their lives. These bombings have never been solved.

In fact, many in Nashville don't even know they're connected.

In Dynamite Nashville, Betsy Phillips pieces together what really happened in Nashville at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement. It has national implications for how we understand the violent white response to desegregation efforts and white supremacist actions now.

Just as Nashville was where Civil Rights icons like John Lewis, James Lawson, and Diane Nash got their start, it turns out that Nashville is also where a network of racial terrorists began experimenting with using dynamite against integrationists and the Civil Rights Movement. Worse, in Nashville, we see how the differing agendas of local police and the FBI allowed these bombers to escape prosecution until decades later, if at all.

J.B. Stoner, perhaps best known as one of James Earl Ray's attorneys, brought together Klansmen disillusioned with the Klan's unwillingness to sanction violence and racists unaffiliated with any particular group and provided them the training and support they'd need to commit acts of terrorism throughout the South. Members of this network committed at least twenty bombings between 1957 and 1963, when the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four little girls (a bombing for which Stoner allegedly provided the dynamite), forced tighter dynamite regulations, making it hard for the network to get their hands on the stuff.

Dynamite Nashville, then, is a prequel to the racist violence of the 1960s, the story of how these bombers came together to learn how to terrorize communities, to blow up homes, schools, and religious buildings, and to escape any meaningful justice.

Publication Date:
Third Man Books
Country of origin:
United States
Dimensions (mm):

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