Politics & Government

NC officials seek feedback about African-American monument at Capitol

A series of meetings across the state seeking the public’s input about a proposed monument at the State Capitol that honors the achievements of African-Americans will end next week with one in downtown Raleigh.

The meeting, which will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the State Capitol, will be the last of eight to solicit ideas about the monument. Susan Kluttz, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, said the first six meetings took on a regional flavor, with residents wanting to make sure that their part of the state was represented in the project.

“There has been a wide range of suggestions,” Kluttz said Friday. “There have been so many African-Americans contributions in this state, in so many different ways.”

The monument will be the first honoring African-Americans on the State Capitol grounds. Gov. Pat McCrory raised the idea in late October, inspired in part by a desire to recognize African-Americans in the wake of last June’s church massacre in Charleston, S.C., that killed nine people, including pastor and state senator Clementa C. Pinckney, during a prayer service.

Members of the N.C. Historical Commission and the N.C. African American Heritage Commission both endorsed the plan, which would end a 25-year moratorium on the construction of statues on the State Capitol grounds. In March, at public meetings in Greensboro, Charlotte, Rocky Mount and Fayetteville, members of the commissions described the possible location, materials and themes for the monument, then listened to what people thought about it.

The commission members added three more meetings this month in Winston-Salem, Asheville and Wilmington.

Kluttz said attendance at the statewide meetings has not been “huge” but that there have been quality discussions among those who took part. She said the ideas offered by state residents have been “varied and inspiring.”

“It’s really been fascinating to hear what people have to say,” Kluttz said. “We have had such wonderful, passionate input from citizens across the state. We realized we needed to extend the public hearings to even more cities to ensure we were giving everyone the opportunity to give their input.”

Kluttz said the meetings have started with a presentation that shows the proposed location for the monument – a grassy space at the southeast corner of the State Capitol grounds. The spot is across the street from the historically African-American First Baptist Church and along a thoroughfare that leads into Southeast Raleigh, the heart of the city’s African-American community.

Those unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting can visit www.ncdcr.gov/monuments-feedback to have their say.

The proposed monument is intended to “complement, not supplant” the N.C. Freedom Monument Project that’s been in the works since 2002, when the Paul Green Foundation held a series of public discussions with the aim of establishing a monument to reflect the African-American experience in the state. In 2006, the Freedom Monument Park committee identified a proposed site at Wilmington and Lane streets, just east of the Legislative Building, and money was allocated for it in the state budget. But the recession halted those plans, and the project stalled.

Thomasi McDonald: 919-829-4533, @tmcdona75589225