PHOTO: From left are Kevin Riggs, Hewitt Sawyers, Eric Jacobson and Chris Williamson. / File photo
By JOHN McBRYDE
More than a year after three local pastors and a historian proposed the idea to install historic markers in downtown Franklin that would commemorate the African American experience during the Civil War in Franklin, three of those markers will be unveiled during a ceremony Thursday, Oct. 17, at 11 a.m. on the public square.
Hosted by the Battle of Franklin Trust along with the city of Franklin, the event is open to the public and will feature the organizers of what is now known as the “fuller story” — pastors Hewitt Sawyers, Chris Williamson and Kevin Riggs and historian Eric Jacobson.
The markers tell the stories of the African American experience before, during and after the Battle of Franklin. Five markers will eventually be placed around Franklin’s town square. Three of them will be placed in front of the historic Williamson County Courthouse and will be part of next week’s unveiling. Those will tell the story of African Americans during Reconstruction, the 1867 riots that occurred in downtown Franklin, and the story of the United States Colored Troops soldiers.
Fundraising is currently taking place to have a statue of a U.S. Colored Troops soldier to be sculpted and placed beside the marker.
“I am so proud to be part of this effort,” Jacobson, CEO of the Battle of Franklin Trust, said in a press release. “The stories told by these interpretive markers have always been part of our shared history and it is time we are honest with the past. The fuller story is, in many ways, the story of America. I applaud the pastors for their leadership and our friends all over Franklin for their support and steadfast commitment.”
Riggs, pastor of Franklin Community Church, said in the release that the intention of adding the markers is to tell a more complete story of Franklin’s history.
“From the beginning,” he said, “our purpose behind the fuller story was to unite — not divide. We wanted to put something up instead of tearing something down. The unveiling of these markers is a huge step in that direction.
“My prayer is that Oct. 17 be a day of unity, love and celebration.”
Two additional markers will be placed in the middle area of Franklin’s town square where the Civil War monument known as “Chip” stands. One will tell general information about the Battle of Franklin and the other will describe the slave market in downtown Franklin.
The installation of those markers is being held up while a case between the city of Franklin and the United Daughters of the Confederacy remains tied up in court. Franklin filed a lawsuit last year against the UDC to lay its claim of ownership of the land where the Confederate monument stands.
“We’ve continued to act in a way consistent with ownership [of the property],” Franklin City Administrator Eric Stuckey said Tuesday night after the meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. “We maintain it, we’ve put in a new irrigation and lighting system this summer; we have festivals there and various other events.
“The Christmas tree goes up there every year. We’ve done all these things only an owner would do. We think that’s consistent with the facts, so we’re going to continue to treat it as the public space and continue to maintain it as such.”