Franklin unveils a new statue that honors enslaved African American soldiers

USCT Soldier Statue Unveiling
Posted at 5:12 PM, Oct 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-25 07:55:40-04

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — For the last 122 years, a Confederate soldier has stood sentry over the square in Franklin, but as of this weekend, he will no longer stand alone. "I think this is Franklin’s proudest day and proudest achievement," said Eric Jacobson, CEO of the Battle of Franklin Trust.

Beneath a tarp was the brainchild of three pastors and a historian. Eric Jacobson, Rev. Kevin Riggs, Rev. Hewitt Sawyers and Rev. Chris Williamson joined forces to design and secure funding for this monument to enslaved soldiers. Together, they call themselves — The Fuller Story. "There was resistance but the resistance is crumbling. This crowd is proof of that," said Jacobson.

Their effort to erect a statue, honoring African American troops that found in the Civil War, has taken almost as long as the war itself — four years. "What does this statue mean? This statue means hope, it means courage, it means possibility, it means dignity, it means valor," said Rev. Williamson.

Many assumed it was impossible. "From the African Americans in the city, they were like Pastor, we know we love ya, we know that you’ve got a good heart but there ain’t no way the city is going to put a statue of a black man in downtown," said Rev. Riggs.

And yet, this day, this movement, proved otherwise. "Things are not changing, they have already changed," said Rev. Sawyers.

So in front of a crowd that could be counted in the hundreds, a new soldier officially began his watch when they took off the tarp. The sculpture of a black man, was designed and created by one too. "It’s such an honor for me to have had the opportunity to create this piece, it was an emotional piece because of knowing what it stands for," said Joe Frank Howard, the sculptor of the statue.

The reaction was just what the organizers hoped for. "I think it’s wonderful. It’s something that will be here forever and all of our grandchildren and generations will be able to know where we stand," said Mary Hunter, an older member of the Franklin community.

"I think it looks really cool," said Ariya Meriwether, a younger observer.

They hope, no matter your age or your race, a fuller story now stands over downtown Franklin.

"Just for us as African Americans now to have something that is representative of us and being a part of the story is very impactful for the old as well as the youth," said Eric Meriwether, Ariya's father.