Franklin Residents Face Racial History

By Clint Confehr

FRANKLIN, TN — With citizen groups talking about disrupting bias and why it’s hard for white people to talk about racism, another group has reached its $150,000 goal toward placing a bronze statue of a Black Union Army soldier at Williamson County’s historic courthouse.

 That building faces this town’s traffic circle. It’s centerpiece is a monument — nearly 38-feet-tall — owned by the

André Churchwell, MD speaks July 13 on Disrupting Everyday Bias.

United Daughters of the Confederacy. The monument includes an Italian marble statue of a Confederate soldier, nicknamed “Chip” because part of the brim of his hat chipped off during installation in 1899.

 Now, Columbus, Ohio-based sculptor Joe F. Howard, a Tennessee native, is commissioned for the $150,000 project described by Dr. Chris Williamson of Franklin, pastor of Strong Tower Bible Church in Forest Hills. He and Pastors Kevin Riggs and Hewitt Sawyers, and historian Eric Jacobson decided to tell a “fuller story” about race in Franklin. They were motivated here during a candlelight vigil shortly after the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally against the Charlottesville, Va. City Council vote to remove the Robert E. Lee statue from a city park. The four men’s web site, fullerstory.org, tells more.

Dr. Chris Williamson is pastor of Strong Tower Bible Church and a founder of the Fuller Story. Courtesy photo

 Numerous Franklin residents apparently woke up, recognizing what happened in there could happen here. In October 2017, white supremacists canceled their Murfreesboro demonstration following a white lives matter march in Shelbyville that morning.

 Instead of trying to remove “Chip” — there’s a petition for that, and litigation over land around the monument — the Fuller Story group wants to present American history that’s “not to be erased,” but “studied in light of truth and in light of where we are today,” Williamson said. A “lost cause agenda” is the opposite of winners writing history. “If you’re going to have a physical representation of a Confederate soldier, then you need to have a physical representation of … a Black Union soldier,” Williamson said. It’s to be unveiled during Juneteenth celebrations next year.

 There are other programs on race here.

  • On the Tuesdays of July 14, 21 and 28 from 5:15-8 p.m., another group, THE PUBLIC (THEPUBLICfranklin.com), continues its “Book Study & Gathering” including discussion on Robin DiAngelo’s book “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” on the front lawn of New Hope Academy, 1820 Downs Blvd. Brad Perry, Brentwood Academy’s 12th grade chair and history teacher, leads the book study. Williamson Christian College

Sculptor Joe F. Howard and Dr. Chris Williamson stand together in Franklin near the anticipated location for a statue of a Union Army Black soldier. Photo from Fuller Story

Professor Anthony Hendricks, who teaches An Urgent Call to Biblical Unity, plans to discuss racial trauma with a psychiatrist, a therapist and African Americans willing to “share their emotions during this time” on July 14. “We’re trying to create a space for healing … a safe space to discuss these issues of volatility in our country,” Hendricks said. “We give African Americans a space to vent … to express the fact that we’re all just tired … especially as we operate in white spaces.” Since George Floyd was killed, attendance grew to 500-600 with 3-6 percent Black. Franklin (pop. 81,000) is 79 percent non-Hispanic white.

  • Monday, July 13, Vanderbilt University’s vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion, and chief diversity officer, Dr. Andre Churchwell, will discuss “Disrupting Everyday Bias” during a Zoom webinar simulcast on Facebook starting at 9:30 a.m. It’s one of the FrankTalks monthly lectures organized by Franklin Tomorrow Executive Director Mindy Tate and presented by Williamson Medical Center and Renasant Bank. Born and raised in Nashville, Churchwell’s father broke the color barrier at the Nashville Banner as the first full-time African American journalist hired by a major newspaper in the South.

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Clint Confehr
About Clint Confehr 219 Articles
Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical Area began in the summer of 1980. Clint's covered news in several Southern states at newspapers, radio stations and one TV station. Married since 1982, he's a grandfather and is semi-retired from daily news work.