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Other voices: Susan Kluttz wants your ideas

Kluttz

Secretary Susan Kluttz

Secretary Susan Kluttz

North Carolina’s secretary of natural and cultural resources, Susan Kluttz, wants some advice.

Her department and two state historical commissions have decided that the Tar Heel State needs a monument to the contributions of the state’s African Americans on the Capitol grounds in Raleigh. It’s a good idea, one we endorse.

Now, they’re seeking suggestions on what that monument should be. Public hearings have been scheduled around the state this month to solicit ideas.

It is altogether fitting and proper that the state do this. African Americans did help build North Carolina, often by back-breaking labor for which they went unpaid or poorly paid.

The monuments at the State Capitol now are an odd assortment. There are statues to the three U.S. Presidents born in the state — Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson — all of whom moved to Tennessee for greater opportunity. Johnson was impeached.

There are already monuments to veterans of World War I, World War II and Vietnam, two Confederate monuments (one of them to the women on the home front) and statues of assorted characters in state history.

Some are a bit obscure. Ensign Worth Bagley had the bad luck to be the first American killed in the Spanish-American War. (It probably helped, in getting his statue installed, that his brother-in-law ran Raleigh’s biggest newspaper.)

So, an African-American monument is long overdue. But what should it be?

Against great odds, black Tar Heels have striven hard and achieved much. Perhaps their accomplishments are too great to be embodied in a single individual.

It would be nice if the state could set aside a generous cash prize (perhaps some of our business leaders and philanthropists could contribute) and call on the state’s finest artists to compete to submit a design concept, which would be beautiful, imposing and would give these strivers the memorial they deserve.

We’re sure there are a lot of great ideas out there and we urge people to come forward with them. Two more hearings remain: 6:30 p.m. March 22 at the Braswell Memorial Library 727 N. Grace St., Rocky Mount; and 6:30 p.m. March 28 at Shaw Auditorium, Fayetteville State University, 1200 Murchison Road, Fayetteville.

Those who can’t make the public hearings can make their opinions known online by going to www.ncdcr.gov/monuments-feedback

— Times-News, Burlington

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