An African-American memorial will soon move from the drawing board, to a grassy slope on the southeast corner of the state Capitol grounds.
The museum remained on the drawing board for 15 years. To determine what shape the monument will take when erected on the state Capitol grounds in Raleigh, state officials launched a series of public hearings on March 8 in Charlotte at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture, according to the Charlotte Observer.
The project moved from the planning to the execution stage four months after nine parishioners were shot and killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston on June 17. Four months later, Gov. Pat McCrory announced the state Historical Commission voted unanimously to move forward with planning a memorial on the state Capitol grounds.
“This is a very important time to do this, due to all the racial unrest in the country,” said Michelle Lanier, director of the North Carolina African-American Heritage Commission.
“On the statehouse grounds in Alabama and South Carolina, there were (Confederate) symbols that need to come down,” Lanier said. “We don’t have that in North Carolina, but we realized we had another issue: A void. There was a missing piece to the story being told, in monument form on the state Capitol grounds. It’s the story of the African-American people of North Carolina.”
It’s not known yet when it will go up, how much it will cost, who will pay, or whether an African-American artist will create it. According to news reports, the monument will be built with state and private funds after the cost and a tentative plan are determined.
While a 20-year moratorium bans construction of statues on the state Capitol grounds, which already holds 14 monuments, the state has decided to make exceptions to the moratorium in only three cases: a monument to women, a monument to Native Americans and a monument to African-Americans. So far, only a monument to African-Americans has been proposed.
North Carolina will not build the first monument. South Carolina erected one in 2001, and Virginia has had a civil rights monument since 2008.
South Carolina’s monument is the more elaborate of the two, it cost about $1 million (private donations). It tells the story of African-Americans from their arrival to that state as slaves to the modern age.
Charlotte historian Tom Hanchett said he would like to see the civil rights movement figure prominently in the monument. One idea, he said, is to create a lunch counter with statues of the four original Greensboro activists who occupied chairs reserved for whites in a 1960 protest.