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IN-DEPTH: A new statue will go in Franklin's square. Here's how we got here.

FullerStoryStatue.jpg
Posted at 11:21 AM, Oct 21, 2021

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — A group of local pastors and a historian will unveil their final piece of a years-long project in downtown Franklin this week.

The Fuller Story initiative — a work of four placards depicting the Black experience plus a U.S. Colored Troops statue — will create a new historical experience on the public square. Its final piece, the U.S. Colored Troops statue, will go in front of the historic courthouse Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Currently, the four placards are up, and depict the slave market, the Riot of 1867, the Civil War and Reconstruction.

“This glorious statue will stand in front of the Historic Courthouse in Franklin where hundreds of escaped slaves in Williamson County and surrounding areas fled to in order to enlist in the Union Army," pastor Chris Williamson said. "This statue represents the 186,000 United States Colored Troops soldiers who courageously fought for this country’s freedom and their own freedom. These black men are worthy to be honored and celebrated.”

To celebrate, the group will host events Thursday and Friday to bookend the project. But prior to the end, project leaders iterated it took effort to get to this point.

Here's what's happened since the beginning.

  • Aug. 2017: Local clergy hold a prayer vigil for Charlottesville, Virginia, after a white supremacy protest to take down a Confederate statue turns deadly. This was the nucleus for the idea of the markers in downtown Franklin, to hopefully stave off that sort of conflict. Instead, faith leaders wanted to come together in solidarity for the town.
  • Aug. 2018: Faith leaders pitch the idea of having four markers in the public square to depict the Black experience in Franklin, from slavery to Reconstruction to Jim Crow. They decided to call the project “A Fuller Story.” A petition for the Fuller Story starts. The United Daughters of the Confederacy – initially iterating they want a say in the project since the Confederate statue sits in the middle of the square – threaten to sue the city if the markers initiative passes. Instead, the City of Franklin files a judgment suit to determine who owns the property around the square, including the Confederate monument. The monument has stood at the center of town since 1899.
  • Jan. 2019: Franklin offers settlement in dispute with Daughters of Confederacy before approving the project. They wanted to provide a deed to the UDC, which would explain they own the monument and a piece of the square, but not the entire public square.
  • Feb. 2019: Franklin aldermen decide on the locations of the markers, despite the impending lawsuit on who owns the public square. At the time, the UDC urged claims in purchases proved they owned the public square. Those claims were disproven.
  • Oct. 2019: Markers in the Franklin square go up. Around 200 residents came to the unveiling.
  • June 2020: Key donor provides money for USCT statue creation.
  • July 2020: Franklin settles with the UDC over ownership of the public square. The settlement mean the group possessed documentation they own the monument, but the city owns the rest of the square.
  • Nov. 2020: Franklin board approves installation of the USCT statue.
  • Oct. 2021: Supporters will erect that USCT statue in front of the historic courthouse.