As you walk from Patterson Park toward this selfie site, you will see to your right older architecture associated with the city's earliest southern boundary. The Old Dixie Highway used to wander its way through town and came out on Maney Avenue. You'll see an old gas station on the corner there, now a cigarette shop.
It's in this area you will also find Bradley Academy. We now know Bradley Academy as one of the core institutions in Murfreesboro’s African-American history, but its history as a school began early in the 19th century. The United States Congress in 1806 made funds available for towns across the country to develop local schools or academies. Taking advantage of these funds, the Tennessee Legislature authorized an academy in Murfreesboro and an1806 Act named Joseph Dixon, John R. Bedford, John Thompson Sr., William P. Anderson, and Robert Smith as the trustees of Bradley Academy. The act empowered them to purchase land and raise funds for the school which opened in 1809. Using information gathered from newspapers and other correspondence at the time, we think the original academy was located close to the current site. One of the early students to attend the academy was James K. Polk who was elected President of the United States in 1844.
But Bradley Academy housed enterprises other than a grammar school. After the original wooden structure was replaced with a brick structure in the late early 1830s, Union University used this new building to hold classes while the university’s new facility was constructed on Main Street. The building is also believed to have served as a hospital during a smallpox epidemic in 1836 as well as during the Battle of Stones River.
Perhaps, though, the building’s most notable use was as the first school in Rutherford County to offer formal education to African-American students. In 1884 Bradley Academy reopened after Murfreesboro’s education system was reorganized. This time, however, it housed African-American students exclusively. Once opened, the academy had three teachers and 150 students and would soon become a cultural hub for African Americans in the community. Bradley’s success with academic, athletic, and civic programs helped grow African-American participation in the education process, and involvement in education rose, so much so that the black community called for a more modern building. In 1917 construction began on that new building and in its subsequent years, Bradley Academy developed into an institution that provided education to elementary as well as high school students. Due to the success of Bradley Academy both academically and civically, local boosters were able to gain the approval for a separate high school, Holloway High School, to open in 1928. After Murfreesboro City Schools integrated in the late 1960s, however, Bradley was no longer needed for educational purposes.
The non-profit Bradley Academy Historical Association Inc. began its fight in 1986 to preserve the school and, in 1996, the museum opened its doors to the public as an interactive and powerful example of educational and African-American history in Murfreesboro and Rutherford County. Bradley Academy is now a museum that literally allows you to attend class with elementary students in some rooms while showcasing the Academy’s long and rich history of education in the city of Murfreesboro. There is also an exhibit on soldiers - black and white - and the Civil War. It is a true testament to the educational commitment of Rutherford County.
Save the date! Bradley Academy's 100 year anniversary (for the current building) will be in 2017.
Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center
415 S. Academy Street
Murfreesboro, TN 317130
- Its hours are 10AM-4PM Tuesday thru Saturday and room rentals are available.
- Admission is $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for seniors and students, and $1.00 for children 12 and under. Come take a tour today!
- Coming in 2017: the 100 year anniversary of Bradley Academy. Visit the website for other events.
For more information you can visit the website at http://bradleymuseum.com/ or give them a call at (615) 867-2633