The struggle over the symbols of the Confederacy has focused on what to take down and what to keep up. But the better discussion, as suggested by The News & Observer’s columnist Barry Saunders, would be about what new memorials and monuments to erect in honor of the other side of the South’s history, a struggle in which the South emerged victorious – the struggle for civil rights.
Fortunately, the focus of that positive discussion is already here. It’s the proposed Freedom Monument Park in Raleigh. In late 2012, Gov. Bev Perdue signed a lease agreement for the park to be constructed on the corner of Wilmington and Lane streets between the Governor’s Executive Residence and the Legislative Building. Statues and artwork in the park would honor the African-American experience in North Carolina. But the art would also stress the efforts of all races to reach mutual understanding and the common values that bond all North Carolinians.
The park would be a natural stop for tourists and schools groups visiting the capital. Its contents would help balance the collection of statues and memorials in the area around the Capitol that honor Confederate soldiers and veterans of other U.S. wars.
The vision for the park came from the Paul Green Foundation, an organization that supports human rights. The project has attracted several corporate supporters, but it remains well short of its goal. Under terms of its lease with the state, the park organization must raise $5 million for planning and construction by 2017. The goal includes $3.5 million for planning and construction and $1.5 million for an endowment to fund maintenance of the park. So far, $700,000 has been raised, from foundations, corporations, individuals and the state.
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The Civil War tore the nation asunder. The Civil Rights movement helped knit it back together. The areas around the State Capitol have several memorials to the Lost Cause. It’s time for a park honoring the Just Cause.
Find information about the Freedom Monument Park and ways to donate at ncfmp.org