State officials come to W-S looking for ideas for African-American monument

State officials come to W-S looking for ideas for African-American monument
April 21
00:00 2016
Valerie Johnson



A monument honoring African-Americans’ contributions to North Carolina will soon be added to the State Capitol grounds and the public has the opportunity to decide what it will look like. On Tuesday, April 12, state officials kicked off a month-long series of public hearings to gather feedback from residents about the proposed monument.

According to Suzanne Kluttz, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR), input will be taken from residents around the state, and the final decision will be made by members of the N.C. African-American Heritage Commission and N.C. Historical Commission.

“This is not something that will be decided by state staff. It will all come from your ideas,” Kluttz said.

Currently the state grounds have 14 monuments, none of which feature African-Americans. NCDNCR member Mike Hill said the new monument will be located near Wilmington Street in the southeast corner of the grounds. The finished product will be a stone’s throw from First Baptist Church, which opened its doors to those of African descent in 1812. The proposed location of the monument is also near the campus of historically black university Shaw University.

“We decided on this location because of its historical significance,” said Hill. “The area was once known as the black business district of Raleigh.”

During the hearing, held at St. Phillips African Moravian Church on South Church Street, a number of residents made suggestions on what they believe the monument should look like a n d represent. From monuments that featured water, to others that reached to the sky, those in attendance presented a number of interesting ideas to think about.

Margaret Graham of Winston-Salem said the monument should honor the history of slavery in the state.

“It’s impossible to tell the story of African-Americans in this state without including slavery,” said Graham. “That is something that has to be included in the monument.”

Dr. Donna Benson, a Winston-Salem State University history professor, said because of the many contributions of African-Americans, the monument should show diversity and the progression the African-American community has made over the years.

“From education to the arts all the way to sports, African-Americans have made contributions in a number of different ways,” said Benson. “I feel that having balance and showing the various hardships of people of color should be included.”

N.C. African-American Heritage Commission Chairwoman Valerie Johnson, who will be involved in the final decision-making process, said she is excited because this is a very important moment in the state’s history. Johnson noted that without the help of the public, this project would not be possible.

“To be able to reflect and show the past, the present and the future is very important to the legacy of African-Americans in this state,” said Johnson. “We need your help to make this vision become a reality.”

In coming weeks, similar hearings will be held in Asheville, Wilmington and Raleigh. Following those hearings, officials will then decide on a budget and lay out a timetable for finishing the memorial.

For more information on the monument hearings, call 919-807-7290. Individuals or groups wish-ing to voice opinions or support the new monument can visit to provide feedback.

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