- A Planning group was formed in 2002, with support from the Paul Green Foundation to explore the absence of public monuments in North Carolina commemorating African Americans
- The Project was incorporated in 2004 as a IRS 501(c)(3) charitable corporation for the purpose of creating a process to determine purpose, place and financing of a monument honoring the African American experience in North Carolina
- A Board of Directors was established with 35 members from all areas of the state and an Advisory Board was named by then Honorary Chairman John Hope Franklin
- Subsequently, with funds secured from a wide group of donors, the North Carolina Freedom Park Board of Directors completed the process of gathering ideas from citizens across the state, developed a curriculum for school children, and selected and hired an artist team to design the Freedom Park
The Design of the Park
- As the result of a Request for Proposals and adjudication of submissions, a preliminary design concept was adopted in 2008 with theme of looking back on slavery, Jim Crow, and the historical struggle of Black North Carolinians for freedom
- The preliminary design was withdrawn in 2015 after a Focus Group organized and led by the NCFP Board recommended a more uplifting theme reflecting the core value of freedom and the changes over time in the lives of North Carolinians in relation to race.
- Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation provided grant support in 2015-16 to reorganize the project with a smaller working Board of Directors. The board selected a new concept and schematic design via a design competition.
- The design submitted by renowned architect Phil Freelon of Perkins+Will was chosen and described as “a testament of Truth about our past and a beacon of Optimism about our future.”
- In 2017, Freelon’s design for the North Carolina Freedom Park received a Merit Award from the American Institute of Architects Triangle Section.
- The design features a dramatic central beacon structure, the Beacon of Freedom, and the words of 19 Black North Carolinians from throughout our state’s history artfully inscribed on the five walkways that lead to the Beacon of Freedom.
The Site of the Park
- A central one-acre site in the Capital City of Raleigh, between the State Legislature and the Governor’s Mansion, was deeded to the project in 2008.
- The deed to the property includes the proviso that once construction of the park is complete, it will be given back to the state under the auspices of the Department of Administration and the Division of Natural and Cultural Resources for maintenance and programming.
- The Council of State granted an original 10- year lease of this prime property (est. value approximately $6.0 million) for constructing the Park. The lease has been extended with a timeline for completion of the construction of the Park in 2022-23.
- Construction on the Park began in late 2021.
Financing the Park
- An initial fundraising goal of $5 million was established to complete the design and construction of the Park and its inspiring centerpiece, The Beacon of Freedom. 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.