20 YEAR HISTORY of the Project
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 which included 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 was convened.
- Participants 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.
- A 35-member statewide Board of Directors was formed, and an executive director was hired with 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 The NC Historical Commission approved the design.
- The design was described 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.
- The funds were made available 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 The NC Capital Planning Commission gave unanimous approval for a site.
- The site for the Park is a one acre plot of land between the Legislative Building and the Governor’s Mansion.
2012 Council of State authorized a 10-year lease of the site for construction of the Park.
- The lease stipulates the 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 the Board of Directors for a Fundraising Campaign
- The goal was to raise $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.
- A Welcome Breakfast was held 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 Media Attention and Continued Fundraising for the Park.
- 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 reorganization 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 nationally recognized design teams.
- Following the review and evaluation process, The Freelon Group of Durham, NC was selected as the winning entry.
- Freelon’s team proceeded with the development of the new Park concept and completed 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 is expressed in the sculpting of the Park’s landscape and educational features. There are areas to reflect and places to gather – and a signature vertical architectural structure at the center of Freedom Park – the Beacon of Freedom – to inspire visitors.
2017 Planning and Capital Campaign are the key priorities for the Board
- Friends and Board Members hosted 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 was 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.
2017 to 2021 Capital Campaign efforts and outcomes lead to start of Construction
- A capital fundraising campaign from 2017 to 2020 raised $3.3 million (including an SECU Foundation Challenge Grant of $500,000 and a State Grant of $1.5 million).
- The public "Light the Beacon" Campaign kicked off at the October 7, 2020 ceremonial groundbreaking for the Park with a gift of $100,000 from Duke Energy. This public campaign is ongoing and funds raised will support the park, its maintenance and programming.
- In May, 2021, the Park was selected for a $1.9 million grant by the Mellon Foundation’s Monuments Project dedicated to funding construction of the park.
- Construction of the Park begins in late 2021 and is scheduled to be completed by early 2023.
2022 Construction of the Park continues along with planning for the Friends of the North Carolina Freedom Park organization to partner with the NC DNCR and its African American Heritage Commission to maintain and provide programming for the park.