History

2002 The Project was initiated by the Paul Green Foundation. Town Meetings were conducted and a concept developed for a permanent State park in commemoration of the “struggle for freedom” characterized by the African American experience.

Dr. John Hope Franklin was named Honorary Chair and chose an Advisory Committee: Bill Friday, Julius Chambers, Loren Schweninger, Walter Brown, E.B. Palmer, Howard Lee, Susie Powell, Rebecca Anderson, Dorothy Spruill Redford, Betsy Buford, Mary D.B.T. Semans

2003 A Statewide Conference of representatives from the Town Meetings explored perspectives on “Freedom” – how to publicly recognize historical injustices and inspire a future that honors the promise of freedom for all.

2004 The Project became a publicly supported 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation with a 35-member statewide Board of Directors, an executive director and initial financial support from a variety of foundations, corporations and individuals.

2004 A jury was convened to select an Artist Team from 108 international proposals. The team chosen included multimedia sculptor Juan Logan, landscape designer David Swanson and art historian Lyneise Williams – all from Chapel Hill. They proposed a powerful, historical design for the Park.

2008 NC Historical Commission approved the design as a “significant monument to the state’s African American heritage and the struggle for freedom.” Dorrit and Paul Green Jr. made a $100,000 challenge gift. Video and materials were produced about the project.

2009-2010 State Legislature appropriated $197,500 to the project through the Department of Cultural Resources for “pre-construction planning and development.” Exhibit booths about the proposed park design were annually set at the African American Cultural Celebration and other events.

2011 Capital Planning Commission gave unanimous approval for the use of one acre of land between the Legislative Building and the Governor’s Mansion as the site of the Park.

2012 Council of State authorized a 10-year lease of the site for construction of the Park and eventual transfer of the completed Park to the State for continuing maintenance and programming. Governor Beverly Perdue signed the lease agreement.

2013 A Strategic Plan was adopted by Board of Directors for raising $5.0 million by 2017 to begin construction of the Park. A Campaign Leadership Committee was formed to lead the effort. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and kick off the campaign, the Park project cooperated with the NC Museum of History in mounting a special Exhibit of the handwritten Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation borrowed from the National Archives with a preview reception and an ensuing statewide tour of display panels.

2014 The Campaign Leadership Committee hired staff and developed fundraising strategies, including a Welcome Breakfast at the Umstead Hotel for 50 civic and business leaders where details about the project were shared. Numerous contacts with potential donors resulted in feedback that the Board should re-examine the Park concept and design in light of recent heightened national awareness of race relations.

2015 Additional media attention was focused on the project when the News & Observer published on July 25, 2015, an editorial titled: Now is the time to build Freedom Park in Raleigh. The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation provided a grant for re-organization of the project to create a new board of directors and to proceed with re-visioning the project. The name of the project changed from Freedom Monument Park to NC Freedom Park. An Advisory Committee on Re-Design of Park was formed and analyzed the current design and environment, concluding that a new design was necessary. In John Hope Franklin’s words, it should tell the story “of slavery and freedom…tragedy and triumph, suffering and compassion, sadness and joy.”

2016 A Request for Proposals seeking new design concepts was sent to three nationally recognized design teams. Following the review and evaluation process, The Freelon Group of Durham, NC was selected as the winning entry. The design team is led by Phil Freelon, the lead architect for the Smithsonian Institution’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture located on the Mall in Washington, DC. Freelon’s team will proceed with the development of the new Park concept and complete the design phase by the end of the year.

Freelon’s proposed concept is based on the belief that African American history and culture form the foundation for our state’s distinctive growth and development over the years. Untold and forgotten contributions have remained hidden below the surface of our state’s formal history, just as the root structure extends below the mighty oak tree. This dynamic theme of discovery, recognition and celebration will be expressed in the sculpting of the Park’s landscape and educational features. There will be areas to reflect and places to gather – and a signature vertical architectural structure at the center of Freedom Park to inspire visitors.

A new Capital Campaign Committee will be named to start a fresh campaign to raise the $5.0 million to complete the project by 2020. A new video and explanatory materials will be prepared.

2017 Planning and Capital Campaign updates: Friends and Board Members have been hosting special events to publicize the new Freelon design for the Park and to build community and statewide support for fully funding the project. Pre-construction planning is being coordinated with the State Construction Office and the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

The North Carolina Freedom Park received a Merit Award from the American Institute of Architects Triangle Section for the Freelon design.


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