About The Slaves To Soldiers Project
The Slaves To Soldiers Project was founded by Tina Cahalan Jones in 2016 to raise awareness about and to honor the lives of almost 400 Black men from Williamson County, Tennessee who escaped slavery to fight for the Federal forces in the US Army and US Navy during the American Civil War.
Research and Education.
The Project engages in ongoing, in-depth research into the Black men from Williamson County, Tennessee who claimed their freedom and enlisted in the Federal forces during the Civil War. This original research has led to a deeper and more complete understanding of Williamson County's Civil War history. Tina Cahalan Jones, the program founder, frequently speaks to schools, civic groups, and historical societies in Tennessee and across the United States (see more here). She also publishes some of her research on her blog (link here).
The primary source documentation gathered about these men, their families, and their lives constitute a powerful mechanism to better understand slavery, emancipation, and Reconstruction in Williamson County and throughout Middle Tennessee. The material - often including interviews and first-hand accounts - paint a richer, nuanced, and more complete picture of the entire history of Williamson County. Additionally, researching these veterans and their families has led to the discovery of new information about local aspects of national historical events such as the Exoduster Movement, the Native American Freedmen, and the struggle for civil rights and voting rights in the United States.
Brick Pavers at Veterans Park.
One goal of the Project is to raise awareness about these veterans by installing engraved brick pavers in the Williamson County Veterans Park at Five Points in Downtown Franklin. Each year on Memorial Day weekend, Williamson County's Veterans Service Office hosts a program to dedicate new brick pavers to honor deceased veterans with connections to Williamson County. Traditionally veterans' family members, historical societies, and veterans organizations have sponsored the pavers. Until the Slaves To Soldiers project, there were no brick pavers in the Park dedicated to the Black men from Williamson County who served in the Union during the Civil War.
To date, the #SlavesToSoldiers project has sponsored 48 pavers honoring 41 of 331 US Colored Troop veterans, and 7 of 15 Black US Navy sailors from Williamson County.
The cost to sponsor any veterans' paver in the Park is $65. The Slaves To Soldiers Project encourages individuals, families, civic groups, schools, and other organizations to sponsor the $65 fee for one of Williamson County's forgotten African American veterans from the Civil War.
US Colored Troop Veterans
To date, 323 Black men have been identified who were born, lived, died, or enlisted in Williamson County, TN and served in the US Army's segregated US Colored Troops during the Civil War. One man served in the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry.
US Navy Veterans
To date, 15 Black men have been identified who were born or lived in Williamson County, TN and served in the US Navy during the Civil War.