29 Nov Tennessean Letter to the Editor: Fort Negley runs in my family
In August, I started following Fort Negley Park on Twitter.
To honor the 2,771 African-Americans conscripted to build federal fortifications in Nashville, Fort Negley Park started to tweet each name. Knowing nothing about the fort, I recognized those names needed to be honored. Reading and liking each one was the least I could do.
On Sept. 28, my own family name appeared in the honor roll: My great-great-great-grandfather, Ruffin Bright, and great-great-grandfather, Egbert Bright, were among the men and women who built the fort. They endured unimaginable work and living conditions in the service of freedom and democracy.
I visited Fort Negley for the first time early one morning in October. As I read the plaques honoring the history and imagined my relatives’ lives there, I was struck by the park’s vulnerability. Much like the men and women who built it, the fort is invisible to many in Nashville. It is vulnerable to a plan to give it to for-profit developers.
Can you imagine giving away Franklin battlefields to commercial builders, hallowed ground destroyed for profit? Is Fort Negley not also hallowed ground?
My great-great-great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather had no rights, no freedom and no choices. In 2017, I do — we all do — and their sacrifice is one reason why. Preserving Fort Negley Park should be a priority for all of us, not just a few historians, civic-minded people, and those with family in the honor roll.
Eleanor Fleming, Washington, D.C. 20017