Last night (Tuesday, February 12, 2019), myself, Pastor Chris Williamson, and CEO Eric Jacobson, went before Franklin’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BOMA) with details of where we desire the 5 markers and 1 statue will go. (Pictures are at the bottom.) Before we shared the plan, I read a prepared statement. I have printed that statement below:Tuesday, February 12, 2019
To the Board of Mayor and Alderman,
For the four of us, this started 18-months ago over a cup of coffee. It continued as we met with Mayor Moore and City Administrator Eric Stuckey several times over several months. Throughout the following year we met with historical societies, historical commissions, college professors, local historians, state historians, church pastors, and the business community. We drank a lot of coffee. We have done our best to do our due-diligence and seek input and support from the community. In August we twice came before this board. We did so once again in September; one more time in January; and now tonight.
This evening we want to share with you where we think the markers and statue should go to adequately tell a “Fuller Story.” We have prayed about what we are going to share. We even called the community to prayer over this proposal. This past Sunday evening, each of you were mentioned by name, in prayer, by a group of your constituents.
We also want you to know we have listened to you. We have heard what you have said. We have tried to answer your questions. We have strived to be open minded. We respect your opinions and your leadership positions in our city. As you shall see, we have made changes based on your input. We believe our proposal is an appropriate compromise and a win-win for all involved, including the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC).
We recognize no amount of markers can completely tell our city’s rich history. Our purpose has never been to tell a complete story, just a fuller story, emphasizing the role African-Americans played in shaping the beautiful tapestry that is Franklin, Tennessee. All we are asking is equal representation and a place of equal nobility.
In 1899, during the unveiling of the downtown monument, the local newspaper interviewed the United Daughters of the Confederacy. They said there was much discussion on where to place the monument. Some thought it would be best if it were on the battlefield, or at Carter House or Carnton Plantation. They said they decided on the middle of the square because they wanted it to be in a public space where it could be used to educate future generations. (The Review Appeal, Thursday, December 7, 1899). We believe the UDC was right. We agree the downtown square is the perfect public space to tell the “Fuller Story,” and educate future generations.
We believe the ground in the middle of the square is sacred. However, it was made sacred long before November 30, 1899. Some have referred to our country’s embracement and practice of slavery as “America’s Original Sin.” Decades before the monument was erected, where the monument now stands, stood a courthouse and a market house. On that site men, women, boys, and girls were sold, like cattle, into slavery. While we cannot right the wrongs of our past, we can reckon with them, learn from them, and honor those who endured such atrocities. It was their involuntary sacrifice that makes that ground holy ground.
From the beginning our stated goal has been to build something up instead of tearing anything down. As pastors in this community, we want to be proactive and do something positive and something that creates unity across racial lines. We believe the “Fuller Story” is a step in that direction.
On a personal note, I believe, to the very core of my being, the placement of these markers and statue in the square is both historically important and spiritually significant. What we are doing matters. The “Fuller Story” is not a project for us. Rather, it is a calling. The “Fuller Story” is not about us. It has never been about us. It is about people still to be born and what kind of city we desire to leave for them. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you…Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7).
The “Fuller Story” is the right thing to do.
Rev. Dr. Kevin Riggs
Senior Pastor, Franklin Community Church
(Read to the Board of Mayor and Alderman at the BOMA workshop on Tuesday, February 12, 2019)