At a work session Tuesday, the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BOMA) discussed erecting three markers memorializing African American lynching victims from Reconstruction and Jim Crow era Williamson County.
The Williamson Remembers Committee — consisting of community members such as Franklin Tomorrow Executive Director Mindy Tate, African American Heritage Society President Alma McLemore, Franklin Mayor Ken Moore and Chris Williamson of the Fuller Story — advocates for one marker to be placed in Franklin’s square and two near Bicentennial Park. Attorney Julian Bibb and the Rev. Kenneth Hill, pastor at Shorter Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, co-chair the committee.
Hill, alongside Center for Historic Preservation Director Carroll Van West and Lamont Turner, a community advocate, spoke to the aldermen to gain input and support for the initiative.
“These markers would serve as a reminder and generate conversations about the inhumane treatment of Franklin’s African American citizens,” Hill said. “If we don’t reckon with the pain, we’re not grappling with our history in an honest way. The relevance of this history is a measure of a people’s humanity.”
At-large Alderman Brandy Blanton agreed the markers would be an important addition to Franklin’s historical narrative.
“A few years ago, we started really trying to uncover and tell a more balanced story, and I think this is the next obvious step for us to continue to balance the scales of that,” she said. “I think about people who I went to high school with who I heard say they never felt comfortable at the square or they never felt comfortable in the places I just assumed were shared by all.”
At-large Alderman Gabrielle Hanson was opposed to erecting the markers.
“You have to think about everybody who’s lost a life at the hand of someone else,” she said. “Maybe it was someone who abused their child, and the child died, does that mean their life is diminished, and it wasn’t special enough to go on a placard?
"We’ve lost a lot of people to things that weren’t right, and we continue to lose people to things that aren’t right even today, and it’s not fair to represent a handful and not represent all. I think this is going to create a bigger chasm in our community.”
She went on to claim that the markers represented “a false narrative behind social justice.”
Drafts of texts on the markers recount the factual history behind Williamson County’s many lynchings.
For example, the beginning of the second marker reads:
“In the summer of 1868, a series of documented racially motivated terror killings happened in Williamson County. On July 19, local Ku Klux Klan members lynched an African American, William Guthrie, for allegedly assaulting Mary Ezell, a White woman. Next, unidentified African American residents killed John Ezell, Mary’s brother, who they believed was guilty of Guthrie’s lynching. The Klan escalated the violence by lynching three victims in August.”
While aldermen voiced varying opinions on the markers, Hill, West and Turner were still “encouraged” after the meeting.
“We want to stimulate that conversation because there are other people in the community who have those same thoughts,” Turner said. “The only way we flush [those thoughts] out is by servicing [people], bringing them out and becoming a better community.”
The next step for the Williamson Remembers Committee is to receive input from the Civil War Historical Commission, and afterward, BOMA will vote on whether to allow the markers.
I have a question of Coleman, the writer of this article...Why is it that Gabriel Hansen 'claims' and Brandy Blanton 'states'? Just sayin'
Steve Baum, my friend....Gabriel Hansen is the one ray of hope we have for a 'sane' BOMA. Most of the others have all given way to the WOKE PC movement, fearing their re-election hopes. All of which will continue to drive us apart, not 'unite' us like all these so called 'smart' people claim.
This is a HUGE mistake. This is obviously designed to perpetuate the race issue. The more you throw this stuff in people's faces the more angry they get. And for what? We don't have this issue anymore. Certainly not in Franklin TN. Stop trying to start something.
Knowing what we know today about "facts", I have a problem with the idea of "drafts of texts on the markers recount the factual history". Can we really say these are the facts? Perhaps people were too afraid to tell the truth. Maybe Mary Ezell accidentally flirted (still no excuse for lynching) so is she going to be blamed, was her skirt too short...maybe her brother was told a lie.
Maybe a KKK member told John Ezell it was William Guthrie so he would get angry and make threats. Maybe it was a KKK member who assaulted Mary Ezell and started the horrible events. I'd rather not hurt innocent family members of both families who may still live here and perhaps instead name the KKK members, the "facts" on the perpetrators. Maybe that hits too close to home for some Democrats who were the KKK...remember Al Gore, Sr??
This is just making the enemy of All happy, as we to continue to hold hate. If we want to acknowledge hate is out there and mark it- we can do that very easily; we just won't have enough public space for markers. Why don't we promote goodness, faith principles of love and forgiveness and treat one another as we'd like to be treated as the one and only Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King so eloquently said on multiple occasions. Please find another way.
The article states - series of documented racially motivated terror killings yet William Guthrie was not simply killed because he was black, he was killed because they thought he attacked and raped Mary Ezell. Now certainly he should have had his day in court and not hung , it wasn't originally racially motivated.
Hansen was a complete fraud as a candidate.
She might be happiest in pre-1963 Mississippi.
Interesting. So we need a marker for William Guthrie a man who attacked the Ezell girl according to reports choking her until unconscious then committing rape. Sadly he was then arrested and hung the night of the arrest. The complete story isn't clear however by most accounts he did attack a young girl. Another thing that this article failed to mention after the hanging the following Saturday a group of black men and two whites attacked and shot into a group of men killing the Ezells girls brother and wounded several more. I say this only to point out trying to rehash history 155 years later - is that really a "balanced story " ? Will we be putting out a marker for young John Ezell who also was murdered ? Was the whole thing a mess ? You bet. Should anyone be hung by a mob ? Certainly not. Should we now continue to revisit these ancient horrors and somehow think it is appropriate to put up a memorial marker for an accused rapist ? I fail to see how things like this bring us together.
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