Freedom Park Unveiled in Raleigh to Celebrate North Carolina’s Black Heritage

Freedom Park Unveiled in Raleigh to Celebrate North Carolina’s Black Heritage

North Carolina Freedom Park on Lane Street in downtown Raleigh was unveiled on Wednesday, Oct. 7.

Lead designer Michael Stevenson said in an interview that the park is important for all North Carolinians. “I think it’s important for everybody in our state to understand our history and how we got to where we are because we’re all in it together and we’re all going somewhere.”

North Carolina Freedom Park occupies an important space in the heart of Raleigh’s civic life.
Image courtesy of North Carolina Freedom Park.

Symbolic Placement

North Carolina Freedom Park sits in the civic center of downtown Raleigh. This was intentional. The park, Stevenson explains, is “a natural pathway connecting a lot of destinations in downtown Raleigh.”

In addition to the eye-catching sculptural beacon at the park’s center, pathways are lined with quotes from notable black North Carolinians. One is from James E. Shepard (1875-1947), the founder and president of the North Carolina College for Negroes.

James E Shepard (1875-1947) was born in Raleigh. He was a pharmacist as well as an educator. During his lifetime, he was one of the most successful black businessmen in the US.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Shepard’s words are emblazoned and elevated along the park’s sidewalk. “Democracy is that audacious belief of our people — that in most ordinary people there are resident the most extraordinary possibilities, and that, if we keep the doors of opportunity open to them, they will amaze us with their achievements.”

A mission to foster memory through North Carolina Freedom Park.

The park’s centrality in Raleigh is a statement that both the injustice it acknowledges and the contributions it honors are important for everyone.

Phil Freelon, the architect and Design Director for the firm that designed the park, spoke about his vision for the park in an interview available here.
Image courtesy of North Carolina Freedom Park.

Phil Freelon, who was the architect and Design Director, articulated his thoughts in a video interview. “My hope for the park is that everyone who comes there, young and old, will be affected in some way. They will read the quotes, they will feel the ambience of the space, and they’ll leave that moment changed somehow for the better, that they will learn something and be moved.”

Harriet Jacobs was born into slavery in Edenton, North Carolina. Jacobs eventually escaped, and, at the behest of her minister, she wrote about her life in an autobiography you can access here.
Image courtesy of Public Domain.

Above all, keeping memory alive through education is part of the park’s vision. To that end, their website includes a curriculum. The curriculum covers topics such as the Wilmington Race Riots and brief biographies on individuals such as Harriet Jacobs. It also includes a research prompt for the Greensboro Sit-Ins.

Learn more about North Carolina’s role in the Civil Rights movement in “A Journey through History: 7 Civil Rights Sites in North Carolina.”