One of the most moving historic sites in Nashville is Mount Ararat Cemetery (Orr Avenue off Elm Hill Pike), the first African-American cemetery in Middle Tennessee. Now badly neglected, this cornerstone of the city's African-American social history is hemmed in on all sides by heavy trucking development, I-40 and Purity Dairy.
In April 1869, Mount Ararat was founded by local black leaders, who purchased property just north of Murfreesboro Pike at the junction of Elm Hill Pike for the cemetery. After 1910, the cemetery deteriorated until it was revived in the 1920s. By the 1970s, however, much of Mount Ararat again was overgrown with trees and brush, and white-owned businesses had begun to encroach on the site.
In 1982, the board of directors of nearby Greenwood Cemetery—founded in 1886 by the late Preston Taylor, then a prominent pastor and the city's pre-eminent African American undertaker—took Mount Ararat under management. They cleared brush and trees and restored some neglected sections. Lost over the years, though, was perhaps the cemetery's most invaluable feature—its interment records and the histories of its eternal residents.