Franklin’s history is complex, including much more than just the Civil War battle here. The whole story of Franklin’s history is that some events and occurrences happened in its public square and its downtown area, particularly denigrating to the black citizens of the time, which would be considered wholly unacceptable in modern society. While not a positive history or source of pride for Franklin, these events cannot be overlooked as if they never happened.
In the wake of tragic events at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, Franklin area pastors and community leaders of all races gathered for a prayer vigil around Franklin’s public square. From that gathering, discussions began about how all aspects of Franklin’s history were not adequately acknowledged in the downtown square. There was a monument to Confederate soldiers who died in the Battle of Franklin, but nothing noted the other challenges faced by black slaves through the years in that same public square.
Those pastors and community leaders rallied support and funds to erect five historical markers and a statue around the public square to acknowledge the terrible events of the past, honor U.S. Colored Troops, and serve as an education to residents and visitors alike about more than just the Civil War story, but the “Fuller Story.”
Despite some external pushback, near-universal support from the local community and city leadership led to the installation in 2019 of five new historical markers. Two markers surrounding the public square on the roundabout share the story of the Battle of Franklin and the statue at the center of it, while the other marker describes the market house that stood on the square in the early years of Franklin’s founding and was used for the purchasing and selling of human beings.
Three other historical markers can be found around the outer loop of the public square detailing reconstruction, the riot of 1867, and the local involvement of U.S. Colored Troops who signed up for service at the courthouse on the square. Outside that same county courthouse on the public square now stands the March to Freedom statue. Sculpted by artist Joe Howard, the March to Freedom statue was erected in October 2021. At the time of installation, it marked only the sixth statue of its kind in the United States honoring USCT soldiers and the first in the nation located in a public square.