The Gallatin Colored Fair happened every year, but Black families all over northern Tennessee prepared for it with excitement and joy every single time. Why did a simple county fair matter so much?
Carnivals and county fairs were segregated in those days. So when a fair for us – the first one in America! – came about in 1927, Black people rejoiced. On the surface, the Gallatin Colored Fair was like any other, but it had a much deeper purpose.
Many families had been separated by relocation, threats of violence from white racists, or job requirements. The fair was an opportunity to safely reunite! The musical greats of the day also performed there, and many Black leaders used this as an opportunity to give inspirational messages to our people.
There was something else, too.
The fair sponsored a Children’s Day. There, our children learned about all things Black. We celebrated ourselves unabashedly. The fair normalized and celebrated being Black!
So what happened to the Gallatin Colored Fair?
Integration. Today the fair is known as the Sumner County Fair. But still, for many Black families, the legacy of the first “colored” fair lives on.
It reminds us that we must always seek to protect and create our own Black spaces - for the culture.