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By JOHN McBRYDE
Organizers of the “fuller story” initiative presented a detailed proposal of where historical markers could be placed in downtown Franklin to a packed room Tuesday night during the Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session.
And unlike the rather cool reception that Franklin Community Church Pastor Kevin Riggs and Strong Tower Baptist Church Pastor Chris Williamson received when they gave an update on the project at the Jan. 22 work session, aldermen were much more accepting of the plan in the most recent go-around.
Riggs and Williamson were joined Tuesday by Battle of Franklin Trust CEO Eric Jacobson to provide exact placement plans of historical markers on the Franklin town square that would add perspective on the experience of African-Americans before, during and after the Civil War. The fuller story would give a more complete account of life in Franklin around the time of the Battle of Franklin.
“What we are doing matters,” Riggs told city staff and aldermen during Tuesday’s presentation. “The fuller story is not a project for us, but rather a calling.”
Aldermen have been behind the concept since the idea was presented last August and unanimous approval was granted a month later, but tunes seemed to change a bit at the Jan. 22 session. Alderman Dana McLendon, 2nd Ward, said then he was reluctant to put anything on the square that isn’t directly connected to people who fought then and there. Other aldermen followed that line of thinking.
“When we were here last,” McLendon said Tuesday, “I articulated a preference or inclination to limit what we might put on the square to those things that had to do directly with the battle, and I was wrong to suggest that would be appropriate. … it is clear to me that the single most important thing to ever happen here on the square was the purchase and sale of human beings leading up to the war. So I will support the project that you have presented tonight.”
Fuller story advocates did make an amendment of sorts to their original plan, which would have placed four markers in the middle of the town square.
“We have made some changes based on your input,” Riggs said. “We believe our proposal is an appropriate compromise and a win-win for all involved. … Our purpose has never been to tell a complete story, just a fuller story emphasizing the role African Americans played in shaping the tapestry that is Franklin, Tennessee.”
Two markers will be placed at the outer circle alongside three steps and a ramp that lead up to the Civil War monument known as “Chip.” One marker will consist of general information about the Battle of Franklin and will face Main Street looking west. The other will tell of the slave market around the town square and will face toward Third Avenue South.
A statue of a United States Colored Troops soldier will be placed near the historic courthouse, in a spot where a Civil War Trails marker currently stands. Jacobson said that marker is more about the battle itself, and would be moved to the Carter House. Alongside the statue will be a marker telling of Reconstruction, while another will be toward Mellow Mushroom and tell of the 1867 riots that occurred in downtown Franklin.
“The truth is a lot of folks won’t go to the battlefield,” Jacobson explained. “They won’t go to Carnton or the Carter House; they won’t go to Fort Granger or Winstead Hill. But they’re downtown. And they can learn something while they’re here, not just about what happened here, but how this community embraced its entire history.”