• 66°

Freedom Park to honor African Americans closer to reality

By Martha Waggoner

Associated Press

RALEIGH — A gleaming abstract sculpture that’s lighted from within will be the centerpiece of a new park honoring the contributions of African Americans to North Carolina that’s been in the planning stages for more than a decade.

The state Historical Commission approved the new design for Freedom Park on Wednesday. The park will be located on a 1-acre site between the state Legislative Building and the Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh.

Inspirational quotes by African Americans from North Carolina will be engraved on walls along walkways that lead to the 48-foot-tall Beacon of Freedom sculpture.

“Our public art and our public spaces define who we are as a society, as a community,” Freedom Park board member Reginald Hildebrand told the commission. “They proclaim what we believe, what we value and what we aspire to achieve. This will be especially true for Freedom Park.”

Plans for the park began in 2002, and an architect was chosen in 2004. But the Great Recession dampened fundraising, and supporters learned that potential donors found the design’s focus on slavery too depressing, board member Reginald Hodges said Wednesday.

The park’s board sought new proposals focused on uplifting designs in 2016, Hodges said. Phil Freelon of Durham, who designed the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and his firm, Perkins and Will, were chosen to design Freedom Park.

Months before the national museum opened, Freelon was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a degenerative neurological disease that leads to total paralysis. Despite the illness, he accepted the Freedom Park project. He died in July at the age of 66.

“It was our great hope that Phil Freelon would be able to be present for the groundbreaking and dedication,” Hildebrand said. “As you know, he passed recently at the height of his accomplishments with the Smithsonian museum and he could have done anything with the limited time he knew he had left. He chose to invest it in this project in North Carolina, his home.”

Contributions followed Freelon’s name and the new design. The proposed state budget includes $1.5 million for the park, provided that’s matched by $1.7 million in private donations. Park board member Kel Landis said in a telephone interview that the donations exceed the $1.7 million target.

The design includes no monuments; the walls carry no quotes from people outside North Carolina. The walls will be made of precast concrete and tinted to resemble the red clay of North Carolina, said architect Michael Stevenson of Perkins and Will.

One quote located in a prominent place is by John H. Wheeler, president of Mechanics & Farmers Bank from 1952 to 1978 and a founder of the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs: “The battle for freedom begins every morning.”

“We think that really sets the tone as you enter the park,” Stevenson said.

Meanwhile, the beacon will be designed in a shiny metallic so that it’s lighted from both the inside and the outside, he said. As it reaches toward the sky, it will represent “a brighter future for everybody,” he said.

A groundbreaking for the park is planned for December. Stevenson estimated that completing it will take about a year.

Comments

Crime

One arrested, another hospitalized in Castor Road stabbing

China Grove

China Grove Roller Mill open for tours Saturday

News

Facing personnel deficiencies, local fire departments request tax rate increases

Local

‘Panic buying’ creates gas supply shortages locally, statewide after pipeline cyberattack

Business

Twice as nice: Planet Smoothie opens alongside Cold Stone Creamery in co-branded store

Local

Spencer board gets update on South Iredell rat problem

Education

West Rowan teacher awarded $15,000 outdoor learning grant

Cleveland

Town of Cleveland plans celebration May 22

High School

High school girls tennis: Busy Hornets win again easily

High School

High school softball: Nixon, Walton top all-county team

Education

All Hood Alumni and Friends Symposium scheduled June 18

Education

Shoutouts: Southern City Church awards educational gifts

Local

City to pave streets surrounding Bell Tower Green after park is constructed

Nation/World

Colonial Pipeline restarts operations days after major hack

Nation/World

Ohio’s million-dollar idea: Lottery prizes for vaccinations

Nation/World

GOP dumps defiant Trump critic Cheney from top House post

Nation/World

Israel steps up Gaza offensive, kills senior Hamas figures

Coronavirus

Fluctuating COVID-19 death number back to 302 in Rowan County

Crime

Habitual felon sentenced to at least 8 years in prison

Kannapolis

City of Kannapolis to have bike rodeo Saturday

Crime

Two more charged for operating illegal gambling businesses

Education

A.L. Brown celebrates seniors with signing day

Business

Rebounding, but not recovered: Rowan County tourism begins challenging path toward normalcy

High School

High school baseball: Padgett leads Mustangs; 100th win for West coach Graham