Dana McLendon is a Franklin Tenn. city alderman, located near a Confederate soldier monument.
By Jamie McGee
FRANKLIN (Tenn.) For decades, Hewitt Sawyers felt the burden of slavery's long shadow as he drove past the Confederate soldier monument in his city's square.
Sawyers, now 73, was a graduate of a segregated Franklin school, which is about 20 miles from Nashville. He used to read from a collection of books that had been passed down from the local high school. He was not allowed to use the lower floors of the movie theatre's theater, as the courthouse had a colored water fountain. After a 2017 white nationist rally in Charlottesville Virginia, Confederate monuments all across the South were being demolished, Chip wanted his 37-foot local statue to be removed, too.
Sawyers, a Baptist minister and pastor, stated that Chip was a significant part of why I wasn't part of the downtown arena. It was a reminder about the past every time I went around the square.
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Sawyers and other like-minded residents didn't get the statue taken down, but they came up with a provocative solution: A new bronze statue in Franklins public square depicting an American soldier. Colored Troops are mainly Black regiments that were enlisted for the U.S. Army in the Civil War.
Saturday's unveiling of the new monument was attended by hundreds. Five newly added markers and the story of the market where enslaved persons were sold and the role of local Black men in fighting for their freedom tell the story. The Fuller Story was a four-year project that Sawyers and three local residents led. It expanded the story of how and why the war was fought.
Sawyers stated that this is a Black man who was slaved and who gave his life for others. It is a powerful message to be standing in front of a statue representing enslaving these people, and to know that he was willing.
Franklin is home to approximately 80,000 residents and is the county with the fastest growing economy. It is now a major economic hub for large corporations. The city has been known for its vast green spaces. Its tourism and identity focuses largely on Civil War landmarks. Visitors can visit Carnton, which was a Confederate field hospital and burial ground, as well Carter House, which is a Confederate home that was destroyed in the horrific Battle of Franklin. Franklin's seal is found in Williamson County. It includes a Confederate flag, cannon, and seal.
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The unanimous approval of the Fuller Story by city officials is a major step forward in the way the community remembers the Civil War.
It was long past time to tell the U.S. story. Eric Jacobson, a local historian, worked on this project. It was not something that many people knew about.
Dana McLendon was a 24 year old city alderman who called it "probably the most important thing we've ever done."
In 2017, a white pastor named Kevin Riggs stated at a public gathering it was time to take down the Confederate monument in Charlottesville. This proposal was met with threats of death and angry voicemail messages.
The legal obstacles that supporters would have to overcome were also well known. Since 1899, the Confederate monument has been in place. The United Daughters of the Confederacy installed it. The figures that were chipped during installation gave the monument its lasting nickname. New restrictions were placed on the removal of memorials by a 2013 state law.
Jacobson came up with an alternative plan: Instead of focusing on the removal of the Confederate statue he suggested that Franklin share stories about local African Americans related to the Civil War. To make it possible, the group raised $150,000 in private donations.
In 2019, the five markers were placed by the squares centre and in front of the courthouse. These large placards, which include photos and illustrations from the era, describe the experiences of African Americans in the past, present and future. One of the placards includes ads for selling enslaved persons for cash or credit.
Although you can hear the romanticized stories of slavery in Gone With the Wind, here is the truth: Men, women and girls were sold like cattle wherever they stood, Riggs stated. This is what happened.
The U.S. was created by Joe Frank Howard, a Columbus-based sculptor. The U.S. Colored Troops statue was created by Joe Frank Howard, a Columbus, Ohio sculptor. He holds a rifle across one knee and has his foot planted on a tree trunk. Broken shackles lay under him. Howard, 73, stated that the title refers not only to the marching of soldiers before battle, but also the marches that took part in the fight for civil right.
He stated that the war was the first step to true freedom for Americans of color.
During the Civil War, approximately 180,000 Black soldiers served in the United States. They were still segregated from white soldiers as they fought but faced severe consequences if captured by Confederates.
Chris Williamson, a Franklin pastor who led the effort, stated that he has seen many Confederate statues. However, I have never seen a statue depicting a soldier of the United States Colored Troops in person.
He said, "Image matters." Representation is important.
There are many other monuments and statues that honor Black Civil War soldiers across the country, including memorials in Boston, Lexington Park, Maryland, Vicksburg and Mississippi, and Washington D.C. A second one is due to be unveiled in Wilmington (North Carolina) in November.
Lecia Brooks was the chief of staff at the Southern Poverty Law Center. She praised the Fuller Story, particularly in light of Tennessee's restrictive preservation laws. However, she said that the statues shouldn't be confused as they offer a balanced view of war. This is because the Confederacy wants to continue chattel slavery. Brooks stated that they are not the same.
Franklin's elected leaders remain divided over whether the Confederate statue should go. They are united in their approval of Fuller Storiess.
Alderman Margaret Martin said that Franklin Franklin's history is a big part of his genius. He was exactly where he needed.
McLendon is one of those who would like it to be moved to Carnton cemetery. He said that if you read the words on the statue and it doesn't make you feel uncomfortable in 2021 then maybe you should go back. The inscription says, "No country has ever had true sons. No cause is more noble than its champions." We will never forget the glories they have won.
A new agreement between the city of Philadelphia and the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy makes it more difficult to move the statue. The latter objected to the Fuller Story Projects location and claimed ownership of the property. In a lawsuit, the city sought a judgement on ownership and settled by deeding the land to the group directly under the Confederate monument. Doug Jones, an attorney representing the United Daughters of the Confederacy Chapter, stated that anyone wishing to relocate it should fight that tooth-and-nail.
Williamson stated that he has been met with criticism from some Black residents who were disappointed that the Fuller Story didn't go far enough to change the downtown face of Franklins. He said that others can push for the removal of Confederate statues, but that he is moving on with March to Freedom.
He said that he was excited about the stories that we are sharing and how they havent been told before. Chip is too busy.
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