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The Public to host virtual conversation with Franklin alderman about public square, UDC

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Brad Perry, a teacher of African American history at Brentwood Academy, founded The Public with Anthony Hendricks in 2019.

A Franklin racial justice group will welcome a Franklin alderman to a virtual conversation Tuesday concerning the recent draft settlement passed by the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen, which concedes ownership of the land directly beneath the Confederate monument on the Franklin Public Square to the United Daughter of the Confederacy (UDC).

The Public, a Franklin group dedicated to anti-racism education, advocacy and action, will host the discussion live on its Facebook and Instagram pages Tuesday, July 21, at 7 p.m.

Robert Hicks, president of the Franklin's Charge Board of Directors and author of "The Widow of the South," will moderate the conversation between Franklin Ward 2 Alderman and Vice Mayor Dana McLendon, The Public co-founder Brad Perry, and Franklin resident and Franklin's Charge committee member Lamont Turner.

Last week, after about two years of debate over who owns the Franklin Public Square, the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously approved a draft settlement agreement, allowing the court to recognize the Franklin chapter of the UDC's ownership of the ground directly beneath the Confederate monument, installed by the Franklin UDC in 1899.

In 2018, when the city began discussions with three local pastors and a local historian about the Fuller Story initiative, which sought to install five historic markers and a U.S. Colored Troop statue to share the experience of African American people during the Civil War, an attorney representing the Franklin UDC told the board that the UDC owned the square and that the city should not place markers there.

Since that time, the city filed a lawsuit, asking the court for a declaratory judgment concerning ownership of the square, and offered twice to allow the court to recognize UDC ownership of the land beneath the monument in addition to the pavers around the monument, not including the grassy area known to some as "Confederate Park." The most recent settlement that the city approved last week acknowledges UDC ownership of only the land beneath the monument.

This vote by the board sparked some controversy among the community, as UDC ownership of the land beneath the monument means that the city and the public have little to no control over the monument, as some locals have called for its removal from the square in recent years. The court and the UDC still must accept the terms of the settlement before it is official.

Ahead of its virtual discussion, The Public told its members to send any questions they may have for the two aldermen regarding this topic to thepublicfranklin@gmail.com by 10 p.m. on Monday, July 20.

For more information, visit thepublicfranklin.com.

Update: A previous version of this story stated that Franklin Alderman At-Large Pearl Bransford would be part of the virtual discussion. We have since been informed that she will not be joining.

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