Hundreds of people showed up for the unveiling of a new statue honouring Black soldiers of the American civil war, installed across the street from a Confederate monument in a Tennessee town.
Titled as “March to Freedom,” the new bronze statue unveiled on Saturday at Franklin’s public square tells the story of the 1860 war, the horrors of slavery, and honours the Black people who participated in the struggle to end it.
The statue shows a soldier standing with one foot on a decaying tree stump, symbolic of the end of the “tree of sorrow” which was used to tie up Black people who were traded and sold and already hung from as punishment, sculptor Joe Frank Howard said.
It also features a pair of broken shackles, half buried in dirt, representing the idea that Black soldiers are “never to be chained again”.
The life-size soldier now stands in front of Franklin’s historic courthouse and honours hundreds of African Americans from Franklin’s Williamson County and over 170,000 across the nation who joined the Union Army.
It stands right across the street from a monument to Confederate soldiers known as “Chip”, at the identify of a market house where enslaved people were auctioned.
The project, known as the Fuller Story, has been led by lawyer Pastor Hewitt Sawyers, who has worked on the project the last four years to inform people about the American Civil War.
Growing up, Mr Sawyers said he avoided the downtown Franklin stretch in which the Confederate statue served as a stark reminder of what Black people endured in the 1860s. He grew up in the Jim Crow era when the town square was not welcoming to Black residents.
“I was conditioned, in other words, to know where my place was,” Mr Sawyers said at the unveiling ceremony on Saturday.
The idea was initially floated by Eric Jacobson, the white CEO of Battle of Franklin Trust, who wanted to take an inclusive approach and speak about the history of Black Americans at the town square. According to reports, Mr Jacobson convinced Mr Sawyers about erecting a new statue to honour Black soldiers instead of bringing down Chip.
“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 honour for fighting in a war,” Mr Sawyers said.
The unveiling of the statue is the beginning of unearthing more stories and sharing them, city leaders present at the site on Saturday said.
(With inputs from agencies)
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