Franklin Township says it will keep Confederate plaque

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- After much debate, Franklin Township will keep its 90-year-old plaque honoring Confederate leader Robert E. Lee.

The small community became a local locus of controversy Aug. 16, when the nearby city of Franklin quietly removed the plaque from its spot on Dixie Memorial Highway and handed it over to its original owner, Franklin Township.

The monument had gone largely unnoticed throughout its 90-year residence in that spot -- so much so that officials didn't notice it had traded hands when lines between city and township were redrawn in 1990 -- but the white supremacist violence centered around a similar statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, sparked a renewed focus on Confederate memorials across the country.

These monuments, most of them constructed decades after the Civil War ended, evoke strong reactions both among those who believe they represent a particular cultural heritage and those who believe they represent a nation that fought to preserve black slavery.

The City of Franklin's population is 96.2 percent white, according to U.S. Census data.

Brandy Bailes, who attended Thursday's meeting, belongs to the former group.

"All over this country, they are tearing down things and they are just dividing us, dividing us, dividing us," she said. "I want to see (the plaque). I want to know that it's preserved and okay."

Township trustees attempted to soothe the fears of people such as Bailes, assuring them that they had received the plaque from Franklin city, that it would not be destroyed and they were contemplating next steps.

"Our intention … is to make sure it's okay, if it's not, fix it, and then wherever the marker ends up being, (ensure) that it is taken care of and the people know the history of it," trustee Ronald Ruppert said.

Bailes said she was satisfied by the resolution.

Interestingly, Ohio was not a Confederate state during the Civil War. The presence of a monument like the one in Franklin belies the fact that the Buckeye State provided more troops to the Union army than nearly any other.

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