NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Beginning Thursday and through the weekend, Middle Tennessee is making time to remember the U.S. Colored Troops who served in the Civil War.
Ceremonies are planned in both Franklin and Nashville where they’ve built historic landmarks to remember the stories passed down through generations.
To appreciate where we are, sometimes it takes looking back at how we got here.
Gary Burke’s father worked just down the street from the historic marker; he's worked five years to help commission just south of Interstate 40.
Burke says his father drove down the street daily for 25 years, but it wasn’t until he turned 70 that he found files on the Burke family history.
“On one of those documents it had on the back my grandmother receiving a pension from the civil war,” Burke said.
Burke picked up where his father left off after he died in 2007. He discovered it was his great-great-grandfather who served in the 17th regiment of the U.S. Colored Troops at the Battle of Nashville. It’s a battle where nearly 2,000 of these soldiers stormed Granbery’s Lunette in 1864.
It was their first time picking up a rifle, but they fought to uphold their freedoms as now former slaves. It took Burke five years to finally make this marker a reality, but he calls it an honor knowing this is the first time Metro Nashville has recognized these men in this way.
“That’s the overwhelming fact. I cried the day it actually went up,” Burke said.
It’s a sign of many things to come in Middle Tennessee. Descendants of these soldiers will remember these soldiers over the next three days between Nashville and Franklin.
On Downtown Square, the confederate monument has told just one side of the story since 1899. Chris Williamson and company will soon unveil a statue of their own to tell the rest.
“We’re about to make history together as a community,” Williamson said.
The statue of a Black soldier will sit next to the historic courthouse where more than 300 former slaves enlisted in the Union Army. They had no training but knew it was freedom for the future they were fighting for.
After watching communities around the country demand the removal of confederate statues, Williamson said it was better to give people the full picture and not remove the history that already existed.
“That’s where we got together and said it might be better in this situation to put up historical markers and even a statue of a black man as opposed to taking down a statue that’s been here since 1899,” Williamson said.
Thursday at the Franklin Theatre, Williamson will join faith leaders and historians to offer more background on all the historic markers they’ve installed as part of the “Fuller Story.”
Nashville will also host a ceremony for the more than 2,700 laborers who helped build Fort Negley. You can stop by the fort at 10 a.m. and plant American flags. The ceremony begins at 3 p.m.