'First park to recognize the African American experience in our state:' NC breaks ground on Freedom Park
Posted September 30, 2020 4:31 p.m. EDT
Updated October 7, 2020 6:42 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Tucked away in downtown Raleigh, at the intersection of Lane and Wilmington streets near the Executive Mansion, lies an acre of land that will be the site of North Carolina Freedom Park.
On Wednesday, crews broke ground on the first North Carolina state monument to honor African Americans – a dream two decades in the making.
Reginald Hildebrand, a member of the new park's board of directors, calls it a place for people to learn about the contributions of African Americans who fought for a better society.
Quotes from enslaved locals and freedom fighters
A virtual tour gives viewers a chance to experience what the park will be like. It will feature five walkways filled with words of freedom from people who were once enslaved, and who fought for freedom and equality across the generations.
"Every voice, every word that will be inscribed on those walls, will be the words of Black North Carolinians," Hildebrand said.
There will be "words about freedom, words of encouragement, words of understanding oppression and how it’s overcome, words that will help people persevere during times of adversity."
Governor Roy Cooper, who spoke at the groundbreaking, said, "History books often fail to acknowledge contributions and struggles of people of color."
Hildebrand believes the park will be their gift to future generations, saying, "This will tell them what we valued."
In the middle of the park will be a Beacon of Light.
"It'll shine up in the night sky. That will reflect the fire for freedom," Hildebrand said.
A park for all North Carolinians – not just the Black community
The late Phil Freelon, a notable architect from North Carolina who designed the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall, designed Freedom Park. His son said Freelon stayed committed to the project until he passed away from ALS last year.
Pierce Freelon said his father enjoyed reflecting rich history through his work and was excited and proud to bring Freedom Park to life.
"There's never been a time when there's been a greater need to establish some common ground," Hildebrand said. "Freedom is a value that we all cherish, an idea that we’re all pursuing. This park represents that common ground.
"Freedom Park is not just a park for Black folks. It's a park for all North Carolinians and Americans," said Hildebrand.
State and private funding are paying for this 4 million dollar park. Construction is set to begin in the spring 2021 and should take a year to complete.