The Fort Negley Descendants Project is an oral history digital archive aimed at preserving the voices and stories of the descendants of the African-American laborers and soldiers who built and defended the Civil War defense of Fort Negley. Funded by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy, and Vanderbilt University's Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities and Digital Humanities Center, the project is a collaboration between scholars and descendants who came together in 2018 to preserve the site and honor its legacy. The Fort was built in 1862, by a combination of forced enslaved laborers and free Blacks of Nashville and the surrounding areas, who offered their services in exchange for payment (much of which never materialized). There were also "contraband" workers: refugees from all over the South who fled their enslavement and sought the protection of Federal forces on St. Cloud Hill.
The Builders and Defenders Database is a resource for primary source information about the ~18,500 enslaved and free Black people who built Nashville’s Civil War defenses and fought for our nation in the Battle of Nashville (December 1864). The soldiers fought in eight segregated regiments of the United States Colored Troops (the 12th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 44th, and 100th) in this deciding conflict which saw the largest number of Black soldiers risk their lives to bring the Civil War to its end. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities and the National Parks Service American Battlefield Protection Program, the database is a co-creation between scholars and students at Vanderbilt University, descendants of the builders & defenders, and public historians, genealogists, as well as interpreters invested in the production and dissemination of inclusive and comprehensive information about the underrepresented people of this conflict and its wide-ranging legacies. Information comes from the records of the US Military, Civil War Newspapers, TN State Penitentiary Records, Nashville NW Railroad, TN Central Railroad, Ledgers of W. R. Cornelius, Ophelia Settle Egypt's Unwritten History of Slavery in Fisk University's collections, the Belle Meade Plantation, Report of Thomas Hood & S. W. Bostwick, and the Freemans Savings Trust & Company Report Ledgers.