A Tennessee town has erected a monument to black former slaves who fought in the Civil War, after calls to remove the city’s Confederate monument met resistance.
The new statue honoring members of the US Colored Troops, a segregated part of the Union Army during the Civil War, was unveiled in the historic town square of Franklin on Saturday.
It stands opposite a 37-foot Confederate monument erected in 1899, known as ‘Chip’, which for years has faced calls for its removal. However, the city doesn’t own the Confederate monument and says it is legally unable to remove it.
Designed by sculptor Joe Howard, the new statue depicts a USCT soldier standing near eye level, so viewers can see his wisdom, Pastor Chris Williamson said at the unveiling, according to The Tennessean.
A new statue honoring members of the US Colored Troops, a segregated part of the Union Army during the Civil War, was unveiled in the historic town square of Franklin on Saturday
It stands opposite a 37-foot Confederate monument (above) erected in 1899, known as ‘Chip’, which for years has been the target of petitions calling for its removal
Sculptor Joe Howard shakes hands with people who came to see the Saturday unveiling of his statue honoring Black enslaved men who enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops
Situated in Williamson County in central Tennessee, Franklin was the site of the 1864 Battle of Franklin, a major turning point in the Civil War and one of the Confederacy’s worst defeats.
The area is now a prosperous hub for major businesses, including the North America headquarters for Nissan, and much of its tourism industry centers on Civil War landmarks.
But, concerned that the full history of the Civil War was not being told, the new statue along with five historical markers have been added as part of a project dubbed The Fuller Story.
The four-year project was led by Baptist minister Hewitt Sawyers and three other local residents, culminating in the statue unveiling on Saturday, an event attended by hundreds.
‘Here is a black man who was enslaved, who gave his life to go out to help free other people,’ Sawyers told the New York Times of the new statue.
‘To be standing here, now, in the face of a statue that represents enslaving those people and to know that, because he was willing to do that, we won — what a powerful message,’ he added.
Hundreds gather for the unveiling of the historic U.S. Colored Troops soldier statue in Franklin, honoring black enslaved men who enlisted and served in the Civil War
Sculptor Joe Frank Howard gets emotional as he delivers remarks at the unveiling
The statue was commissioned by The Fuller Story Project in Franklin to create a monument memorializing black Civil War soldiers in the Union Army
Sawyers said at a panel discussion on Thursday that since childhood he had avoided downtown Franklin because it meant seeing the Confederate statue.
He had believed the statue needed to come down, but said that talks with community members with a passion for local Civil War history had ‘changed my heart about that.’
‘It’s not a statue of Robert E. Lee or someone like that, it’s just saying that Confederate soldiers died, and it’s just giving them honor for fighting in a war,’ said Sawyers.
Battle of Franklin Trust CEO Eric Jacobson, who is white, initially floated the idea of the Fuller Story project, according to the AP.
An estimated 170,000 African Americans joined the Union Army from around the country, and some 300 are believed to have ties to Williamson County.
For years, some Franklin residents have raised concerns about the towering ‘Chip’ monument, which depicts an Confederate soldier at parade rest on top of a tall column.
U.S. Colored Troops reenactor Gary Burke stands at attention before the statue unveiling
Attendees gather around the Historic U.S. Colored Troops soldier statue following an unveiling
Ebony Moore sheds a tear as the new statue is unveiled Saturday in Franklin, Tennessee
The monument was erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy in honor of the Confederate troops who died in the Battle of Franklin. The private group still owns the monument, but it has been restored several times at the expense of the city.
Following a 2010 restoration of the Confederate monument, then-Mayor John Schroer declared that the statue was ‘an important piece of the city of Franklin.’
In 2017, following the deadly right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Virginia protesting the removal of a Confederate monument, a petition circulated calling for the removal of the Chip statue.
A competing petition called for the statue to remain, and both garnered thousands of signatures.
At the time, Franklin’s city administrator said that state law prohibited removing the statue without the permission of the Tennessee Historical Commission. The issue is still tied up in the courts.