There’s a battle in Franklin over the city’s most prominent Confederate monument.
Unlike places where statues have been taken down, a coalition of local faith leaders and historical societies has proposed adding new markers to be placed next to the monument that would detail the area’s African-American history. But one group is still strongly opposed.
Emily West has been following this story as a Tennessean reporter covering Williamson County. She talked to WPLN’s Jason Moon Wilkins about why community reaction has been generally positive toward the proposal and where the monument fight is now.
Listen to the full interview above, or read highlights below.
So whose idea was it to add the new markers next to the monument, and who’s against it?
Emily West: “We had three local faith leaders, plus the Battle of Franklin Trust historian, coming forward to the city of Franklin with this idea. So far, I would say that no one is technically against it, but the Daughters of the Confederacy [Franklin chapter] are saying that they own everything on the public square — obviously their monument, but also all of the ground underneath it. So they take issue with the placement of these new markers. They’ve not come out and publicly said, ‘Oh, we don’t like this idea.'”
One of the things that’s been striking is the coalition building up behind this. You have the Heritage Foundation, the Battle of Franklin Trust, even the head of the state Historical Commission. So why do you think these groups and individuals have gotten behind it?
West: “Because what they’re asking for is accurate. It’s an accurate depiction of the African-American side to what happened in Franklin. Slaves were sold in the public square. There was a riot in 1867 that depicted a very large chasm of feeling still left over from the Civil War and the battle Battle of Franklin that was fought there. Reconstruction was difficult for white and black people in Franklin, and that has not really been depicted. It wasn’t until two years ago that there was a slave tour at Carnton [Plantation]. And so I think people understand that the fuller story hasn’t been told, and they feel obligated to make sure that that is shared with generations that come after them.”
There’s been some confusion about who owns the property where the monument sits. Where is that legal battle now, and what will it take to resolve it?
West: “The city filed a judgment suit, which means that they went to chancery court and said, ‘Hey, can someone tell us, in legal matters and legal paper, finally say who owns what of the public square?’ And, by the way, if you look on the state website, the Daughters of the Confederacy [Franklin chapter] dissolved in 1990. However, the city made its own agreement with them to keep the monument maintained. The Daughters of the Confederacy have yet to file their argument in response. In talking with their attorney he said that that would still take weeks on his end, and he anticipated that by November.”