Principal of Hattie Cotton Elementary School, Margaret Cate, after the school was bombed by pro-segregationists. Nashville, TN, Sept 10, 1957.

The Hattie Cotton Elementary School bombing on September 10, 1957 was a destructive bombing by pro-segregationists of an elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee shortly after it admitted its first African American student in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement.

The dynamiting of Hattie Cotton Elementary School on September 10, 1957, "tore down walls, knocked out every window in the modern one-story structure," and caused at least $71,000 (equivalent to $503,907 in 2019) in damage to the library, classrooms, interior walls and lockers.

The attack triggered a response from local civic leaders and members of the Nashville Student Movement. Nashville Police Chief Douglass E. Hosse said that the incident, "has gone beyond a matter of integration. These people [segregationists] have ignored the laws and they have shown no regard for you [whites] or any citizen."

Rev. Kelly Miller Smith and Rev. Will Campbell held a community meeting that showed, "the bombing had touched off all the stored-up rage in the black community. Speaker after speaker got up and denounced the bombing and demanded some kind of reprisal. There was talk of guns and retaliation. For most of the evening, Smith let the meeting go on without challenging the speakers. It was as if he knew that he had to let the rage vent itself." Smith eventually spoke: "We can go forward as planned and try to show them the right way."

Hattie Cotton reopened nine days later without the 6-year-old girl, whose mother transferred her to the all-black Head Elementary School in North Nashville. Despite several weeks of investigation, a $7,000 (equivalent to $49,681 in 2019) cash reward for information, and the detaining of at least six suspects, no one was ever charged in the school bombing.

Nationally known segregationist John Kasper was questioned but never charged. He was described by police as playing a role in securing a cache of dynamite two days before the bombing at Hattie Cotton.

Kasper was later convicted, in November 1958, for inciting a riot on the first day of school in Nashville. At a rally, Kasper predicted "blood will run in the streets of Nashville before Negro children go to school with white.”

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