|Photo of Fawn Weaver via The New York Times|
By Mwabi Kaira
I didn’t know who Fawn Weaver or Nearest Green were before I watched a Breakfast Club interview recently. The interview was so intriguing that I did some more research because I had to know more. Fawn Weaver was on vacation in Singapore the summer of 2016 when she read about Nearest Green (born Nathan Green), the Lynchburg Tennessee slave who taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey. Jack Daniel’s, the global whiskey brand had its beginnings from a slave? Wow. Fawn was impressed too and soaked up the story; she wanted to learn everything she could about the slave she had to read about all the way in Singapore, and his importance to such a well-known global brand.
Nearest Green, Unidentified White Worker, and Jack Daniel (right)
A main focus in the article that Fawn read was that the Jack Daniel’s Distillery would embrace Green’s legacy and change its tours to emphasize his role. Fawn booked her flight to Tennessee to experience what the article promised and was surprised to find nothing in the three distilleries she toured. Instead of leaving Tennessee and chalking it up to a wasted trip, Fawn conducted her own research and contacted Green’s descendants who still lived in the area. Then she started looking through archives in Tennessee, Georgia and Washington, D.C and created a timeline of Green’s relationship with Daniel. The timeline showed how Green had taught Jack Daniel how to distill and also worked for him after the Civil War. Fawn believes that Nearest Green was the first black master distiller in America.
She knew there was a story to be told after consuming the 1967 book ‘Jack Daniel’s Legacy’ where Green and his sons were mentioned more than 50 times in the height of the civil rights era.
“To have another family, a black family, mentioned that many times is insane, that’s how I knew the story was a little more special.”
|Fawn Weaver on a farm in Lynchburg, Tenn., where Nearest Green and Jack Daniel first began distilling whiskey together. Nathan Morgan/The New York Times|
Next she located the farm in Lynchburg where the two men began distilling, and bought it. But she wasn’t done, she also bought a four-acre parcel in the center of town that she intends to turn into a memorial park. Fawn is working on a book about Green and has even introduced Uncle Nearest 1856, a premium aged whiskey that mimics the style of whiskey that Green and Daniel more than likely introduced to the marketplace. Talk about boss moves!
Who could imagine that one newspaper article on the other side of the world would ignite a fire in a black woman that would result in a whiskey, a pending book, possible movie, a soon-to-be-built distillery in Shelbyville, and the Nearest Green Foundation that strives to uphold and share Green’s legacy with the world. Fawn is an inspiration to us all!
Did you know about this important part of black history?