When the Dupont factory was in full swing, the African American domestic helpers lived in a project area which is still considered the "other side of the tracks." This housing development for "the help" eventually became known as "black town." Today, it's the neighborhood of G.O.D. Int'l. In December 2008, our organization moved to a facility located in Old Hickory, TN, specifically to a neighborhood called Hopewell. A deteriorating school building, once a segregated school for Nashville's "colored children," is now the domicile for Global Outreach Developments, Int'l.
Brief History of Hopewell
Written by Rosemary Sherrod
A Segregated Community
The U.S. government asked the DuPont Company to make explosives for Allied forces in World War I. Not only were they commissioned to make the world’s largest smokeless powder plant, but also a town to go with it, later known as Old Hickory. This section of Tennessee is approximately 5,600 acres. “In March of 1918, Hadley’s Bend was a little neighborhood of half a score of farms, a sedate, slow-moving, old-fashioned and somewhat aristocratic cluster of country families” [Sons of Martha, 1928]
After only eight months, concrete, brick, smokestacks, and factories came to replace the trees and fields that had formerly comprised the landscape. DuPont also built a rail line to service the plant. On one side of the tracks was the expansive company town for its employees.
Hopewell was the neighborhood that was on the other side of the tracks, both literally and figuratively. It was the poor and segregated side of town.
From those early days, Hopewell has continued to represent the other side, a place situated on the edge of the city. In addition to the man-made boundary of steel track, a stream cut through the neighborhood that served as a line of separation between whites and blacks for over 70 years.
It wasn’t until the late 1990s that Hopewell’s low-lying, flood prone side of neighborhood began to see racial diversity as low-income Hispanic and white families moved in, mostly in trailer home structures.
Hopewell’s elementary school was the segregated school that existed in the neighborhood since the 1920s. Until 1955, the school was a two-room building with an enrollment of 35 to 45 children in grades 1 through 8.
In 1955, the school board funded the construction of a 15,000 square foot building that provided educational space for over 200 children of color from Hopewell and the surrounding area.
In response to the Civil Rights Movement, the school closed its doors in 1966 as children, black and white, crossed racial lines and entered Nashville’s integrated schools.
In the following years, the school building operated as a temporary annex for a nearby elementary school, a meeting place for Boy Scouts, and the training ground for Metro’s police dogs.
Most of the time, however, the abandoned building served as a neighborhood eyesore and an attraction for mischief.
The history of Hopewell is rich in faith and family. Some of Hopewell’s elderly have been living in this neighborhood since the 1920s, and talk about the days when neighbors pulled together, shared burdens, looked after each other’s children, and cared for one another.
However, as time passed, the neighborhood suffered the influx of drug dealers and the departure of many of Hopewell’s young people. This neighborhood, which survived times of severe hardship and societal injustice, was now littered with abandoned and rundown houses.
The school building, with its broken windows, defaced exterior, rusted playground equipment, and broken basketball goals, stood as a representation of a neighborhood in ruin.
G.O.D. International Moves to Hopewell
Written by Rosemary Sherrod,
based on an interview with Gregg Garner
A Move of God
After months of searching and praying, God directed us to a place that matched both what we needed and what we asked of Him. In a faith-filled response, our organization purchased the abandoned elementary school property located on the other side of the tracks and settled in Hopewell—“building houses to live in, planting gardens, and seeking the welfare of this [small] city” (Jer. 29:5-7).
As Hopewell was experiencing some of its greatest need, God was moving our organization in a miraculous way. In our effort to relocate our headquarters, we physically visited 60 different locations, many of which would have sufficiently met our space requirements. For reasons that went beyond price, size or location, we waited on God to give us his peace and assurance before we made a decision.
The Difference Presence Can Make
The members of our organization not only work in Hopewell, but also live in Hopewell. The difference our presence has made, neighbors have called "transformative." We have renovated or built nearly 50 houses in the neighborhood.
Previously, many of Hopewell’s rental properties were blighted with overgrown yards, signs of general disrepair, and an absence of tenants who participated in any neighborly activity. At first, our presence surprised the neighbors. Several of Hopewell’s old-timers commented that it had been years since they saw young families playing out in their yards, or mothers pushing strollers on the sidewalks, or neighbors taking responsibility for one another.
As our community members maintained their yards, planted gardens, and improved the outside appearance of their houses, the results were contagious—doors were opened in Hopewell.
Today, neighbors know each other’s names and needs. Yards are neat and homes are maintained. The sounds of children can be heard on nearly every street. Hopewell is no longer characterized by hostility, but by neighborliness. Thanks be to God, our presence in Hopewell has made a difference that is visible to residents and visitors alike. Everyone from the police department, to the postman, to the pizza deliveryman have commented on the change—a change for good.
Hopewell is bordered by one of the state’s most prestigious golf courses and an upscale neighborhood with large houses, a lighted tennis court, children's playground, picnic area and gazebo. There's nothing like this in Hopewell.
For years, the only community recreation center Hopewell had was the small playground, basketball court and baseball field attached to the elementary school.
However, when the school was abandoned, the children’s recreational areas suffered—the ball field was overgrown, the basketball goals were rusted, and the playground consisted of corroded metal equipment. When we renovated the building, we also improved the areas that would benefit our neighbors, particularly the children.
On any day you can find children from all ages either shooting hoops on our refurbished basketball court, playing on new playground equipment, or running around on our wide-open soccer field.
More than having access to our property, our neighbors also have access to us.
Since we have been here, our community members have visited the elderly, made home repairs for widows, tutored children, conducted kids’ camps, taught dance to children, hosted Zumba classes for women, and organized community events such as plays, movie nights, block parties, bicycle safety classes, and bible studies. We have followed the mandate of the Lord to “seek the welfare” of the place where our presence resides.
Hope, Well Into the Future
Although we have already experienced so many changes in Hopewell, we continue to have hope for the future. Understanding that our presence necessitates we pray for and benefit those around us, whether here or in a third world neighborhood, we work toward the goal of creating hospitable environments for families--healthy communities.
Members of our organization are being transplanted to the regions of Latin America, India, Southeast Asia, and East Africa. They are able to draw from their experiences in Hopewell as God continues to use us to bring transformation to a neighborhood, the small city of Hopewell.