The city of Franklin, Tenn., is celebrating the contributions of Black people in the Civil War.
CNN reports on Saturday (October 23), the city unveiled a statue of a United States Colored Troops soldier, which honors the approximately 180,000 Black people who joined the Union Army.
"What does this statue mean? This statue means hope, it means courage, it means possibility, it means dignity, it means valor," the Rev. Chris Williamson, a pastor who helped lead the effort to erect the statue, told attendees of the unveiling ceremony, according to CNN.
The “March to Freedom” statue depicts a soldier with a foot stepping on a tree stump and holding a rifle across his knee. It stands in the city’s downtown square, in front of a courthouse where Black people enlisted in the Union Army and across the street from a Confederate monument installed in 1899.
CNN says sculptor Joe Howard shook hands with people who came to see the unveiling of his statue.
Damon Radcliffe, a law enforcement officer in Virginia, says most people don’t understand what Black soldiers had to endure during the Civil War. As a result, he’s working with the American Battlefield Trust, a group dedicated to preserving the country’s battleground, to preserve the land where his great-great grandfather fought. He was one of the 14 Black soldiers who fought in the 1864 Battle of New Market Heights in Virginia and a Medal of Honor recipient.
"They were people they, they had feelings, they had ambitions. For some of them, joining the Army gave them an opportunity to help build this country, help support their families later on in life," Radcliffe told CNN.
Radcliffe says his drive to serve the country has been replicated for many generations as his brother is a Marine veteran and their grandfather fought in World War II.
"Our family legacy is a sense of community service, whether it be in the military, whether it be local government," he explained.