Monument to the enslaved to be unveiled at McGavock Cemetery

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McGavock Family Cemetery

Franklin’s Charge will host a powerful and uplifting ceremony on Nov. 9 at 1:30 p.m. to unveil a monument to the enslaved at the McGavock Cemetery at historic Carnton.

A program that reflects on the history and trauma of the enslaved will begin following a prayer and hymn. Local historian Thelma Battle will present the story of Carnton Plantation, and all are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Brad Perry, a descendant of an owner of the enslaved, will provide a family perspective followed by a perspective of descendants of enslaved, Dr. Reggie Mason and Miss Tennessee Brianna Mason. A reading of descendants will be provided by Carolyn Worthy and Tangie Lane. 

Lamont Turner, chair of the unveiling ceremony and a board member of Franklin’s Charge, shared that Elder John Haynes of Burns Tabernacle Church, Ronda Anderson and Antheia Anderson helped form a community choir made up of local church choir members which will share spiritual music applicable to the time period of the enslaved. Alma McLemore also coordinated other area churches’ involvement with the ceremony.

"This experience has both tested and strengthened my faith in humanity,” Turner said. “Engaging in history can be a skeptical process, especially when particular groups have historically controlled the narrative. Our unveiling committee, which is made up of different races, genders and generations, has demonstrated the healing potential of engaging in our shared history together.

“At our first unveiling meeting, walls of distrust fell down and bridges of trust were built by simply having an honest conversation. The skepticism and controversy surrounding history in 2019 are symptoms of our society not having honest conversation. The unveiling is another healing step in helping our community heal.”

Dr. Eleanor Fleming will speak on the topic of “Why we are here today.” This part of the program seeks to define what is the current problem facing society and what the community has done and is doing to address the situation.

The program concludes with symbolic music, the unveiling of the monument, a wreath laying and a song of celebration. 

“Joshua Chapter 4 (Bible) has been my symbolic, fueling source of perspective throughout this process,” Turner said. “The headstone to be unveiled will serve as a reminder of how God, not man, freed the enslaved. When future generations see it at Carnton, it will serve as a reminder of the freeing power of God.”

The rough-hewn monument’s inscription, which is hand-carved, is meant to remind visitors they are standing on hallowed ground in the company of men, women and children of Africa, enslaved in life, now free in death. 

Members of the Heller family, descendants of the McGavocks who created and still hold the deed to the McGavock Family and Enslaved Cemeteries, chose the location for the monument, which is paid for by men and women, families and churches, both black and white, across the community.

“Franklin’s Charge, in its role as the umbrella organization for historic preservation, strives to tell the whole story of Franklin during the Civil War including our collective history as we facilitate the creation and placing of this monument in the cemetery,” said Robert Hicks, president of Franklin’s Charge. “In a very real way, this monument represents more than just the enslaved buried here at Carnton, but all the lost graves of enslaved men and women across Williamson County.”

Parking is available at the Eastern Flank event facility, 1368 Eastern Flank Circle in Franklin.

For more information about the unveiling, find and like the Facebook page at

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