In Emotional Meeting, Franklin Aldermen Approve Slavery-Acknowledging Civil War Markers

Confederate statues around the country have been a contentious topic for some time, reaching a boiling point in 2017 when white supremacist-led rally resulted of the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer.

Since then, many Southern cities have had their own conversations about their statues, including here in Tennessee, where a bust of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, the KKK’s first Grand Wizard, still sits prominently in the state capitol in Nashville, while Memphis found a way to legally remove some of theirs despite the disgust of many state legislators.

The city of Franklin’s confederate statue, known as “CHIP”, is the most recognizable monument in Williamson County. Some have called for CHIP to be removed, others have made it clear they see it as part of their heritage.

In an effort to think outside the box and find a constructive solution, a group of pastors and other local community leaders came up with a solution they call “The Fuller Story” – which would erect markers and a United States Colored Troops soldier on the square to tell more of the story and acknowledge Williamson County’s slave-owning past.

“The Fuller Story” would place African-American historic markers on the downtown square depicting the sale of African-Americans until Reconstruction in Franklin.

In previous meetings, a few alderman threatened to derail the plans, but Tuesday night at a Franklin aldermen work session those aldermen changed their minds and the group finally got the go-ahead for the markers’ locations.

The official vote will be February 26th.

Pastor Kevin Riggs, one of the leaders of the project, had this to say:

“We can’t right the wrongs, but we can reckon with them and honor those who have endured such atrocities. Our stated goal has been to build up instead of tearing something down. We want to create unity along racial lines. We believe it’s a step in that direction.”

Dana McLendon, an Alderman who had previously been against the plan to put markers on the square because they weren’t battle-related, had a change of heart:

“This is by far the most profound opportunity I’ve had serving this community as an alderman… The idea we might limit to just the battle or the monument that isn’t what is most important. The most important thing that happened in the square was the purchase of human beings.”

At-Large Alderman Brandy Blanton expressed her feelings, saying she’s “proud” to be sitting on this board at this time:

“I am looking at people I went to high school with in this crowd. The town I grew up in isn’t the same they grew up in. It hurts my heart. I am trying to fix some things that should have been fixed a long time ago.”

According to The Tennessean, the markers original set-up day was structured around Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But uncertainty of who owned the public square created a lag in the process:

“In September, the city filed a judgment suit in Williamson County Chancery Court, asking a judge to declare who owned the land in the center of Franklin. Previously, the United Daughters of the Confederacy had threatened to sue if the city allowed new markers near the Confederate monument. The group has since argued in court filings it owns the public square and bought land… Those claims come without a deed in the Williamson County Property Assessor’s office or property transfers recorded the Williamson County Register of Deeds office.”

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