- Jack Neely
City in Tennessee (pop. 178,874; metropolitan area 698,030; 2010 US Census). Founded as a territorial capital in 1791, Knoxville became Tennessee’s first state capital, a distinction it held until 1819. Remote from new networks of steam transportation, Knoxville languished until after the arrival of railroads in 1855 and recovery from the Civil War, whereupon it re-emerged as an industrial city. In 1879, Knoxville’s regional college became the University of Tennessee; by the mid-20th century, UT was a major cultural presence.
A rare early association with music comes by way of a traveler’s 1798 account of Knoxville townspeople dancing to African American banjoists. Despite its obscure provenance, the description has been cited as unusual early evidence of whites responding to the African banjo. In its earliest days, Knoxville found use for a “ballroom,” presumably a venue for dances and musical performances, years before the construction of the city’s first church building; after ...