African American men, women, and children who were auctioned as slaves on the Rutherford County Courthouse steps are remembered through a new marker.

The African American Heritage Society of Rutherford County remembers auctioned slaves through marker dedication at the Rutherford County historical courthouse.

On Saturday, January 13 at 10:00AM a celebration and unveiling of a new historical marker downtown occurred at the Historical Rutherford County Courthouse to honor the enslaved sold on the Courthouse grounds.

The Rutherford County Courthouse in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is a classical revival building from 1859. It is one of six remaining antebellum county courthouses in Tennessee. The courthouse dates to pre-Civil War times when it also served as the Tennessee’s state capitol from 1819 to 1826. After a fire destroyed the original, the present structure was built in 1859.

The ceremony was in honor of those who have been largely overlooked by history. This unveiling was open to the public and coordinated by members of The African Amercian Heritage Society of Rutherford County.

The monument was established to remember the African-American men, women and children who were sold as slaves at the Market-House on the steps of the Historic Courthouse.  

Jason R. McGowan was the master of ceremonies during the event and Mary Watkins spoke about the group effort to make this vision a reality. “Our ancestors were just property back in those days, and that right there itself, that’s a sad story when you think about that, that they were not considered as a human being,” said Watkins. Watkins is a Rutherford County native, as well as president of the county’s African American Heritage Society.

Watkins had a goal to honor those who were enslaved and sold on these grounds with a marker: “We wanted to put those there and let them know they are gone but not forgotten because we are standing on those shoulders."  

Tennessee State Representative Mike Sparks led the reading of the proclamation inside the courthouse, along with Rutherford County Commissioner Romel McMurry.

Commissioner McMurry asked those attending to listen to the sound of the old clock in the courthouse lobby for a minute, pointing out that the clicks of each second mimicked sounds of shackled enslaved African Americans that had walked the streets of downtown to the steps of the courthouse to be sold years ago.  

To learn more about the African American Heritage Society of Rutherford County, visit their website: or contact Mary Watkins at 615-556-1961. 

The Mission of the African American Heritage Society of Rutherford County is to discover, preserve, teach, share the heritage and history of African-Americans in Rutherford County, Tennessee. 

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