A Peabody Award-winning series from Nashville Public Radio about inequality and the people trying to rise above it, with host and reporter Meribah Knight. In Season 1 of The Promise, we told the story of Nashville's largest public housing complex, smack in the middle of a city on the rise. In Season 2, we explore how that divide reveals itself in the classroom. One neighborhood, two schools — one black and poor, the other white and well-off, and the kids stuck in the middle.
A Tale Of Two Schools
It’s the start of the 2019 school year, and two elementary schools in Nashville are about to be at the center of a neighborhood battle over the resegregation of schools.
The Nashville Way
In this episode, we’re going back to the early days of this battle for racial equity in the classroom, to the time not that long ago when school desegregation literally blew this city apart.
After 43 years of courtroom battles, Nashville's landmark school desegregation lawsuit was settled. In the eyes of the law, the city finally made an honest effort to racially integrate its schools. But in truth, the matter was far from settled.
What You Can't Unsee
In a neighborhood with tons of Black families, Willie Sims’ daughter was the only Black child in the kindergarten class of one East Nashville elementary school. Then he started hearing murmurings from other families, white families. They were mobilizing against resegregation. Did he want in?
Warner Elementary is about to take its moon shot. After landing on the state’s list of lowest-performing schools, it’s aiming to make the list of highest-performing schools. Finally, it has all the right tools: an infusion of federal grant money, an energetic and experienced principal, and new class offerings that set the school apart.
But the real turnaround will only work if more students enroll — white students, specifically. And most white families in the neighborhood want nothing to do with Warner.
In this episode, Warner begins its uphill turnaround battle.
The Promise is written and produced Meribah Knight. Edited by Emily Siner, with additional editing by Anita Bugg, Tony Gonzalez, Samantha Max, Sergio Martinez-Beltran and Damon Mitchell. Fact-checking and research by Sam Zern. Advising for this season by Savala Nolan Trepczynski and Alex Kotlowitz. Mixing by Jakob Lewis of Great Feeling Studios. The music is by Blue Dot Sessions.
Last fall, parents from Lockeland Elementary held a community meeting to talk about the elephant in the room: Despite the diversity of the neighborhood, their school was the whitest school in the entire district.
Some white parents in the neighborhood simply didn’t see any problem. Others did and wanted the district to find a solution that would bring more children of color to their school. But there was a time, not that long ago, when an idea was floated that could have changed the makeup of Lockeland’s student body — and it did not go well.
In this episode, white parents start to realize that their choices, and the choices of their neighbors, created this problem.
The Promise is written and produced Meribah Knight, with additional reporting by Samantha Max. Edited by Emily Siner, with additional editing by Anita Bugg, Tony Gonzalez, Samantha Max, Sergio Martinez-Beltran and Damon Mitchell. Fact-checking and research by Sam Zern. Advising for this season by Savala Nolan Trepczynski and Alex Kotlowitz. Mixing by Jakob Lewis of Great Feeling Studios. The music is by Blue Dot Sessions.
Loved the “stories within the story”
Beyond the well constructed podcast and journalism, I fell in love with the people we got to know within each series. Big Man, Tonya Shannon… so many more. Inspiring, smart, gritty, kind, sometimes tragic… very real. Well done! Wish we could keep getting to know all of them!
This is amazing. By the end of season 1 I was in tears. Good job Principal Gibbs and the Warner team and to the podcast journalism!!! I’ve applied for my kid to go to Warner, she’s #8 on the waitlist! Fingers crossed.
I drove by lockeland Elementary the other day and saw no black kids AT ALL. Still a sad truth. As a black woman I couldn’t imagine sending my child there. I felt uncomfortable just driving through in the morning like I didn’t belong and would never put my kid in a situation like that. I hope both schools become more diverse and that funding &equity is spread out more evenly with MNPS schools.
I was floored by the depth of Ms. Knight’s reporting. What an outstanding piece of journalism!