Groups plan to build memorial for people enslaved at Oaklands Mansion

Posted at 6:43 AM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 07:52:20-04

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF) — Directors at Oaklands Mansion are working with local community leaders to create a memorial to the people who were once enslaved on the plantation.

The home was built in the early 1800s and was home to some of Murfreesboro's first families.

"Oaklands was the plantation home of the Maney and Murfree family, and Colonel Hardy Murfree is the man Murfreesboro was named after," James Manning said.

In 1963, the site was turned into a museum, and Manning now serves as director of the mansion.

"It creates a really unique cultural heritage tourism destination," Manning said.

But he added that through much of the mansion's history, an important part of the plantation's story was missing.

"Most of the stories that were told of the people who lived inside the house, and how grand the house was, and how grand the lifestyle was, very little attention was given to the enslaved people who actually built the house," he said.

Over the last several years, he and other administrators at Oaklands Mansion have reached out to African American communities to help tell a more complete story about the mansion's history.

"Looking in the house, there wasn't any evidence that [enslaved people] had even been here," Mary Watkins, who is president of African American Heritage Society of Rutherford County, said. "You can't change history. I feel like the good the bad and the ugly needs to be told."

Watkins has been working with Oaklands Mansion to help tell that story, and now the two groups are partnering on a project to build a memorial to the people who were enslaved on the plantation. The plan is to put a stone monument in Evergreen Cemetery, which is across the street from the mansion and where many of the slaves were buried in unmarked graves.

"I'm not sure as to how many, but there's quite a few," Watkins said. "I am so excited, I cannot wait, because I just love telling the story about the cemetery because people don't know."

The groups are currently fundraising for the project.