Fuller Story Ceremony

(upbeat music) – Well, good morning. – [Audience] Good morning. – And welcome to downtown Franklin. What a special day this is today. I wanna start out with
just simply some thank-yous as I welcome you to this
event in downtown Franklin. First of all, I want
to express my gratitude to the pastors and the historians, the four people that
brought this idea to us. I want to thank our city
staff that has worked so hard to make this a reality, particularly our city
administrator, Eric Stuckey, and the Board of Mayor and
Aldermen, who are here. If you’re Board of Mayor and Aldermen, please raise your hand. (audience applauding) They made it possible. And of course, our community,
you, the citizens of Franklin, also have had a part in
making this happen today. You know, we use a number
of different taglines whenever we talk about Franklin. We talk about historic Franklin. We were founded in 1799. And in just nine days, October 26th, we’ll be celebrating when Abram Maury founded Franklin, Tennessee,
named after Ben Franklin. (audience applauding) We’ve had a lot of significant
milestones in our history, and certainly the Battle of Franklin was one of those milestones. And preservation has
been an important thrust for our community through the years; preserving our downtown,
preserving historic structures. And I think this is an example
of continuing preservation in our community, particularly
preservation of stories that need to be told
and have not been told. Sadly, there are too many stories
that have never been told. And today, as we look at this
event and hear our speakers, we’re gonna start the process
in Franklin, Tennessee, of setting the example for
other cities in Tennessee, other cities across our nation about how Franklin knows
how to do things right and Franklin knows how to be
a leader for everyone else. (audience applauding) So, I, along with the
Board of Mayor and Aldermen and all those other folks I mentioned, are so proud to be part of a significant new page in our history, and I applaud each and every one of you that have had a part in it. So, let’s make sure we
mark this day, today, as a start and new history
for the city of Franklin. (audience applauding) So, allow me to introduce Eric Stuckey, our city administrator. (audience applauding) – Good morning. And it is a good, good day in
Franklin, Tennessee, folks. (audience applauding) You know, it’s an honor
to speak to you today, and I wanna start with a
little bit of background and then a couple comments. I won’t take a lotta time, but this is important to
think about how we got here. You know, in the wake of the tragedy that occurred in
Charlottesville, Virginia, in August of 2017, there was a lotta talk, nationally and locally, about how we deal with
our Civil War history. Well, four men in our
community in particular took it beyond talk, and that’s
when, as I like to say it, that’s when three pastors and a historian walked into City Hall. (audience laughing) That’s not a setup for
a joke, this is serious. But these men, with a firm faith in God and a belief in this community, asked some important questions of the mayor and me initially, but ultimately of our
board, your elected leaders, and of the community as a whole. And just to paraphrase, do we have the wisdom and courage
to tell more of our story? Are we willing to tell more of our story in this place, the city square? Will we share more
elements of our history, especially as it relates to the experience of African-Americans before, during, and after the American Civil War? So, with those questions in mind, over the next several months, these gentlemen and many others,
probably almost all of you, engaged in some discussion,
some thinking, some prayer that ultimately developed the
concept of the Fuller Story that we’re here to present today
and put into reality today. This concept first was
brought out publicly in August of ’18, almost a year to the day of
the Charlottesville tragedy at a Board of Mayor and
Aldermen work session. A month later in September of ’18, the board unanimously adopted a resolution supporting the Fuller Story initiative. From there, the language
of these five markers were drafted carefully. Eric Jacobson and the team
at Battle of Franklin Trust took the lead in that, but
ultimately it was reviewed by a number of prominent
historians and experts. They vetted it, they looked at it, they helped draft and redraft. Just to mention some of those folks: Dr. Carroll Van West, the state historian, Rick Warwick, our
Williamson County historian, Dr. Learotha Williams from TSU, Laura Holder from the Tennesse
Civil War National Heritage, Dr. Eleanor Fleming, historian
and Franklin resident. That wasn’t it. The city’s Civil War Historic
Commission reviewed carefully, gave input, and ultimately
recommended to the board these five markers. We also engaged the State of Tennessee Civil War Trails program
staff to further give review. And Eric will tell you, there’s 10s, 20s, 30s, 40s, (laughing) 40 more people that give direct input about what we’re doing and how
we do it and how we say it. But ultimately, on
February 26th of this year, the board gave final
approval to these markers. The community and your elected leaders ultimately answered, “Yes,” unanimously. “Yes, we’re telling the fuller story.” (audience applauding) Let me recognize directly the people that made that vote today. Mayor Ken Moore. Alderman Clyde Barnhill. Alderman Brandy Blanton. Alderman Pearl Bransford. Alderman Beverly Burger. Alderman Margaret Martin. Alderman Dana McLendon. He’s making a rare appearance at a ribbon-cutting.
(audience laughing) And Alderman Scott Speedy. They made today possible. Thank you. (audience applauding) Let me close with this. The stories of our history
that we tell one another and that we tell our children and where we tell them matters. It matters more than we’ll ever know. Over the past 15 years, this community has made a concerted effort to reclaim battlefield, with the goal of telling Franklin’s story of the Civil War more completely, an important American story. We’ve received a lot of acclaim
for that, rightfully so. What’s taking place
today is the next step. It aligns with that beautifully in terms of how we tell our story. And that story isn’t always pretty. History, in truth, rarely is. But ultimately, our story
is a story of resilience, a story of pain that
is ultimately followed by recovery and triumph, a story where slaves become soldiers and citizens and brothers and sisters, a story of love of community
and of one another, a story we continue to write. I pray that the example we
provide today to our world, a world that is far too focused
on division and difference, will take note, a note
that we accept one another, we humbly tell the fuller
story that honors all of us and builds a better community. Thank you. (audience applauding) You guys ready? Thank you, and it’s my
pleasure to introduce the New Hope Academy Choir. (audience applauding) – Good morning. My name is Teena Boone, and I have the true privilege
of being the music teacher at a community school here in Franklin called New Hope Academy. New Home Academy was
started in the fall of 1996. Our mission statement says, “New Hope Academy is a
Christ-centered school, “educating children of diverse racial “and socioeconomic backgrounds “by establishing a biblical worldview “and preparing each of these children “to flourish academically, emotionally, “socially, and spiritually.” We are located on Downs Boulevard, close to the soccer fields. Drop by and visit us anytime. You’re now going to hear volunteers from third, fourth, fifth, and
sixth grade singing to you, first Amazing Grace, and
then America the Beautiful. (audience applauding) (“Amazing Grace”) ♪ Amazing grace ♪ ♪ How sweet the sound ♪ ♪ That saved a wretch like me ♪ ♪ I once was lost ♪ ♪ But now I’m found ♪ ♪ Was blind ♪ ♪ But now I see ♪ ♪ When we’ve been there ♪ ♪ 10,000 years ♪ ♪ Bright shining ♪ ♪ As the sun ♪ ♪ We’ve no less days ♪ ♪ To sing God’s praise ♪ ♪ Than when we’d first begun ♪ ♪ Than when we’d first begun ♪ (audience applauding) (“America the Beautiful”) ♪ O beautiful for spacious skies ♪ ♪ For amber waves of grain ♪ ♪ For purple mountain majesty ♪ ♪ Above the fruited plain ♪ ♪ America ♪ ♪ America ♪ ♪ God shed his grace on thee ♪ ♪ And crown thy good with brotherhood ♪ ♪ From sea to shining sea ♪ ♪ O beautiful for patriot dream ♪ ♪ That sees beyond the years ♪ ♪ Thine alabaster cities gleam ♪ ♪ Undimmed by human tears ♪ ♪ America ♪ ♪ America ♪ ♪ God shed his grace on thee ♪ ♪ And crown thy good with brotherhood ♪ ♪ From sea to shining sea ♪ ♪ America ♪ ♪ America ♪ ♪ My home ♪ (audience applauding) – Y’all, I messed up. I forgot to mention Alderman Ann Petersen when I mentioned my aldermen. (audience laughing) They teach you that first
day in city manager school and just totally messed that up. But, Ann, thank you for your support too, and, thank you. (laughing) (audience applauding) – My name is Eric Jacobson. I’m the CEO of the
Battle of Franklin Trust, and I got involved with this effort the day after the prayer vigil that was held here in the square in the days following the
events at Charlottesville. And I have to say, I
couldn’t be more proud to be part of this effort. This is (pausing) a wonderful day, to echo what Eric Stuckey
mentioned earlier. This is your history. This is all of our history. It belongs to all of us, all of us. It doesn’t belong to just one
side or one group, all of us. And as I look out on this crowd, I can see countless people’s faces whose history has too long been ignored. One of the things I learned
about history a long time ago is that history is very difficult. Sometimes it’s sharp,
sometimes it’s thorny, and sometimes it’s just
difficult to relate. One of the truths is that
right here in our town square, for nearly half a century, human beings were bought and sold. One of the other pieces of history that’s long been forgotten
is nearly 180,000 black men joined the United States Army and navies to help defend and save the union and preserve the United States of America. (audience applauding) And when the Civil War ended, the military action may have ended, but proxy wars went on for decades. There was a riot right here in Franklin. Reconstruction had successes for the African-American community, and perhaps one of the greatest failures is that Reconstruction ended. But we’re not here to talk about just the terrible elements of the past. We’re here to tell the truth. The truth. We hear a lot in recent years about how history’s been
erased or being erased, catchphrases. I would argue that
there’s a lot of history that’s been erased across this country for the better part of 100 or 150 years, some of it right here in Franklin. (audience applauding) Right behind you stood
the first brick courthouse in Williamson County. Attached to it was a market house in which just about anything
could be bought or sold, including people. It was torn down before the war. We all know that many years after the war, the Confederate Monument that stands today was erected right where that
location had once existed. I think, if we’re honest, we’ll just admit that history was erased in the center of our
square a long time ago and replaced with something else. And the truth is both can
exist in the same sphere because in some ways they both
existed in the same sphere 150 years ago. It’s time to tell the truth, it’s time to tell the whole story, and it’s time to tell the fuller story, and that a big part of moving forward is accepting what our past was, not what it just means to us individually but what it meant to us collectively. When this was all over,
700,000 people had died. When this war finally ended,
700,000 people had died. But four million people were free. Free. Free at last. (audience applauding) It’s taken us until 2019, but we can live with the fuller story. This crowd, I think, is evidence of that. I want to applaud our city leadership, mayor, city administrator, aldermen, but I want to especially
thank Kevin Riggs, Chris Williamson, and Hewitt Sawyers, who have profoundly changed
my life and for the better. I am proud to do this,
proud to be part of this. Thank you very much. (audience applauding) – My name is Kevin Riggs. I’m one of the three pastors, but the best preacher up
here is Eric Jacobson. (audience laughing) Now, I get a little emotional,
but I’ll do my best. But this is a great day, a
day that, to be quite honest, got here quicker than we thought would, if you consider the timeline,
and it’s just fabulous. And I think it’s a historical day, and one day you’ll be able to tell people that you were here. Now, if you wanna come by– I said this at MLK that
my goal for retirement is to come down here and
sit on one of these benches and drink a milkshake and watch people look at
the statue and the signs. And so, I will be down
here sometime Saturday– (audience laughing) With a milkshake–
(audience applauding) Just watching. And so, come join me, all right? And just keep celebrating
this glorious day. But anyway, a couple years ago, after the tragedy in Charlottesville, we held a prayer vigil right
here in downtown Franklin in front of our courthouse
where we’re standing right now. And I had the privilege
of speaking at that rally and talked about our
city’s own need for healing lingering wounds from bygone days. The next day, Eric Jacobson, whom I did not know at the
time, reached out to me. And we met for coffee, and
he began sharing his ideas about providing historical context to our Civil War monument. And I just listened. But not long into our conversation, I interrupted Eric and told
him that what he was saying may sound good to me and him,
two middle-aged white guys, but what we thought really
didn’t matter a whole lot. I told him we needed input from our African-American
brothers and sisters. For too long, their
stories have been left out, marginalized, and ignored. And so, I told Eric he needed to meet two of my African-American pastor friends and listen to their
stories and their concerns. And I didn’t tell my two friends that this historian was gonna call them. I just left it at that and didn’t want them to know anything. Hewitt, Chris, and
myself have been friends for over 20 years. Between the three of us,
we have 70-plus years of pastoral ministry
in Franklin, Tennessee. (audience applauding) This just didn’t happen
overnight, in other words. This came out of relationships. We have spent years talking
and listening and praying about race relations in our
city and in our country. Eric met with them. Then the four of us met together, and the rest of the story
is still being written. From the very beginning, we decided we wanted to build something up instead of tearing anything down. We decided we wanted to do something that would unite our city
instead of divide us. We also felt strongly
about sharing stories from the perspectives of the
slaves and what they overcame. Their story is one of
triumph and endurance that should inspire all of us. We also sensed that we had an opportunity to show other cities how to lovingly and courageously interact with a difficult period of our history. It was also important to us
that churches lead the way. Our goal has never been
to tell a complete story, just a fuller, more inclusive story. Our desire is not to erase
history or to rewrite history. Our desire is to embrace history, engage in history, and
uplift our unsung heroes. The Book of Proverbs tells us, speak up for those who
cannot speak for themselves. Ensure justice for those being crushed. The markers being unveiled today and the creation of a statue to the United States Colored
Troops that begins today do that very thing: speak up
for those who can’t speak up. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. This is a beautiful day. (audience applauding) This is a beautiful day. This is a glorious day. This is a historical day. But this is not the end. This is the beginning of
telling a fuller story, a more complete story, an honest story. This is the beginning of telling
our story, black and white, freed and enslaved,
privileged and oppressed. It is in telling our stories
that we are united as one. The psalmist tells us, stories
we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these
truths from our children. We will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord and about his power
and his mighty wonders. (audience applauding) – Good morning. – [Audience] Good morning. – My name is Chris Williamson, and I am honored to be here today. For the past 25 years, I have been a proud resident
of the city of Franklin. I live up the road in
Founders Pointe subdivision, where the founder of the city Abram Maury and his family are buried. In the city of Franklin,
which was founded in 1799, white planters prospered from the cultivation of various crops and the raising of purebred livestock. As a result, farmers in this city depended heavily upon
thousands of enslaved Africans to work their fields and plantations. The inhumane institution of slavery continued into the 19th century, when much of the city’s economy continued to rely upon slave labor. After the period known as Reconstruction, racial violence increased in Franklin, as whites worked to ensure
and maintain their dominance. As the county seat, Franklin was the site where several African-American
men were lynched. People who look like me
were looked down upon and could not get a
fair trial in this city or in this courthouse
which stands behind me. Completed in 1858, this is
the city’s third courthouse. History reveals that
five African-American men were lynched in Williamson
County from 1877 to 1950. These five men were either
taken from the county jail or from this courthouse
before their trials and hung by mobs. There was Amos Miller, a
23-year-old African-American man who was lynched before his
trial in August 10th, 1888. He was forcibly taken from
the courtroom and hanged from the railings of the
balcony of this courthouse. Many would prefer this kind of history to be hidden and never mentioned. But in our haste to arrive
at “reconciliation,” we often circumvent the
truth-telling process. But reconciliation does
not come without truth, and neither does communal healing. Therefore, I stand before
you today as a truth-teller. I stand before you today
as a preacher of the gospel and a minister of healing
in the name of Jesus. I stand here to tell you
that there is redemption on this very spot. This same courthouse where black men were
often denied a fair trial was also used in a positive
manner during the Civil War. When Union forces took
occupancy of the courthouse, former slaves freed by the
Emancipation Proclamation would come to this courthouse
to become soldiers. My black ancestors would go into the
basement of this building, walk into the provost’s office in order to attain
their official paperwork to join the United States Army. I can picture them now, going into this courthouse
as emancipated slaves and coming out proudly as
soldiers of the Union Army. And in regards to this building, my ancestors went from being
slaves to being soldiers. Overall, approximately
186,000 former slaves would fight for the Union
and secure their freedom. It is believed that the North could not have won the
Civil War without the help of the United States
Colored Troops soldiers. This is why– That’s right.
(audience applauding) This is why it is only right to have a statue of a USCT soldier standing right outside of this courtroom in a place of what Dana McLendon calls a place of equal nobility
to the Confederate Monument. (audience applauding) Yes. Hopefully, next year that
statue will be standing here. Can’t you see him standing proudly? Can’t you see him standing worthily? Can’t you see him standing powerfully? And in order to see this
vision come to pass, we need your help. And being the preacher that I am, I have to ask you for money. (audience laughing) (laughing) This effort is estimated to cost $150,000. And on the back of your program, you will find instructions
on how and where you can submit your
tax-deductible donations for this worthy and historical cause. Ever since the city’s founding
220 years ago this month, there has never been any kind
of permanent representation of African-Americans on the square. But thankfully, with these markers, all of that changes today. (audience applauding) That changes today. You see, Pulaski, Tennessee, Pulaski, Tennessee, is known for being the birthplace of the KKK. Bedford County, Tennessee,
is know for being the birthplace of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Nashville, Tennessee, is known for being the birthplace of the United
Daughters of the Confederacy. But I stand today to let you know that Franklin, Tennessee, will be known for being the birthplace
of the Fuller Story. (audience applauding) Therefore, I declare and
decree that October 17th, 2019, is truly a day of redemption. October 17th is a day of recognition. It is a day of remembrance. It is a day of representation. And thanks be to God, it
is a day of rejoicing. God bless you. (audience applauding) And now, we are going to
be blessed with a song by Miss Charlene Harrison. Miss Charlene? (audience applauding) ♪ Go down Moses ♪ ♪ Way down in Egypt’s land ♪ ♪ Tell old Pharaoh ♪ ♪ Let my people go ♪ ♪ Go down Moses ♪ ♪ Way down in Egypt’s land ♪ ♪ Tell old Pharaoh ♪ ♪ Let my people go ♪ ♪ When Israel was in Egypt’s land ♪ ♪ Let my people go ♪ ♪ Oppressed so hard they could not stand ♪ ♪ Let my people go ♪ ♪ Oh ♪ ♪ Go down Moses ♪ ♪ Way down in Egypt’s land ♪ ♪ Tell old Pharaoh ♪ ♪ Let my people go ♪ ♪ Oh ♪ ♪ No more shall they in bondage toil ♪ ♪ Let my people go ♪ ♪ Oh, Lord, let them come
out with Egypt’s spoil ♪ ♪ Let my people go ♪ ♪ Oh ♪ ♪ Go down Moses ♪ ♪ Way down in Egypt’s land ♪ ♪ Tell old Pharaoh ♪ ♪ Let my people go ♪ ♪ Oh ♪ ♪ Go down Moses, go down ♪ ♪ Go down Moses, go down ♪ ♪ Go down Moses, go down ♪ ♪ Go down Moses ♪ ♪ Way down in Egypt’s land ♪ ♪ Tell old Pharaoh ♪ ♪ Let my people go ♪ ♪ Oh ♪ ♪ Let my people go ♪ ♪ Oh ♪ ♪ Let my people go ♪ (audience applauding) – I’m happy to have standing to my left my old friend Bill Radcliffe,
representing a USCT soldier– (audience applauding) And the Stars and Stripes. Now… For the moment that we’ve been
working toward for two years, if I could ask everyone to
take your assigned places. – [Bill] (inaudible) – You’ll get the
hamburger, let me tell ya. (Bill laughing) All right, is everyone ready? Marker number one, to my right, where Kevin Riggs is standing, is the Fuller Story
marker to Reconstruction and successes within the
African-American community in the decade following the Civil War. Kevin, please unveil it. (audience applauding) Marker number two,
directly in front of me, to the United States colored soldiers, who helped preserve the union and who fought for their
own very personal freedom, to be unveiled by Hewitt Sawyers. Hewitt, let’s see it. (audience applauding) Marker number three, to my front-left, where
Eric Stuckey is standing, is to the Franklin riot of 1867, which came down Third Avenue and spilled right here into the
square and into this corner. Eric, please unveil the marker. (audience applauding) And now, I’d like to announce
some late-breaking news. We were only going to
unveil three markers today. We’re gonna unveil all five. (audience applauding) To my right-front, facing Third Avenue, you’ll see Mayor Ken Moore. He’ll be unveiling a marker
to the Battle of Franklin. For those folks who visit
our wonderful community but don’t make it to the battlefield, they’ll be able to
learn what happened here on November 30th, 1864. Mayor Moore, please unveil the marker. (audience applauding) And last but not least,
marker number five, where Pastor Williamson is standing. This marker is so long overdue, and it tells the story of Williamson County’s
first brick courthouse, but the market house
that was attached to it, long since demolished, long since ignored. It is time indeed to
tell the fuller story. Chris, please unveil the marker. (audience applauding) Now, I’d like to introduce
Reverend Hewitt Sawyers of the West Harpeth
Primitive Baptist Church, who will lead us in prayer. – May we pray. Our Lord and our God, how excellent is thy
name in all the Earth. Our father, as we meet on this great day, as we come to this public square, as we come on this day, on this grand occasion, we bow in humble submission to your will. Father, we are thankful for how you have brought us this far. As we reflect on where we have come from, we are thankful for what you have done. Father, we realize what all we have come through. We realize, father, the purpose
for which we have assembled. And now, God, as we think
about our forefathers and what they had to suffer, we realize, God, that if it had not been
for you on their side, they would not have been able to make it. But God, even these markers that we
are dedicating today, the truths that are being
reflected in these markers, we honor what the truth is and we thank you, God,
that we have reaped a place that we can place the
truth of these markers in our communities. And we pray, God, right now that we will understand as a community that this truth needs to be told. Help us, oh God, to
understand one another. Help us to realize, God, that
reconciliation cannot happen if truth is not told. Help us to understand, God,
that even right here in Franklin that we can be a light
not only for our community but we can be a light for the world. Father, thank you for our city leaders who stood up to take a leadership role. Thank you for planting it in the hearts of these, my brothers who’ve stood with me and our historian who stood with us that we might be able to hear from you. And this has come to fruition
in this action today. Now, God, because you are the one who was able to plant all of this, we give you glory and we give you honor. Now, God, you who do all things well, we honor you and we give you glory. Now, father, our Constitution says that we are to live and
give honor and glory, but we need more than anything
else is we need to know that we can live in
peace with one another. Now, father, as we dedicate
these markers today, we wanna know that you are the one that are going to let us live in peace. Let us know, father, as
we close out here today that because you are our God
and that we are glorifying you, that our last action
that we take as we leave is that we’re going to have
a nation that is under God and that we’re gonna have liberty and we’re gonna have justice for everyone that we come in contact with. For we ask it in the gracious
and powerful name of our God. Amen. – [Audience] Amen. – Amen. – [Audience] Amen. – And amen. – [Audience] Amen. (audience applauding)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *