Freedom Park opens in downtown Raleigh to honor NC African-American heritage

Akilah Davis Image
Wednesday, August 23, 2023
Freedom Park opens in Raleigh to honor NC African-American heritage
A 40-foot metal structure sits right in the middle and it is called the Beacon of Freedom.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Freedom Park in downtown Raleigh held its grand opening Wednesday. It's a park that is 20 years in the making.

It was created to honor North Carolina African-American heritage. It's on about an acre of land across the street from the Governor's Mansion.

Raleigh said it's the first park in North Carolina dedicated to the African American struggle.

A 40-foot metal structure sits right in the middle of the park, and it is called the Beacon of Freedom. It is meant to represent a flame that never goes out -- a flame that is meant to pass from generation to generation.

"It's so much more glorious than I was expecting," Camille Kauer said.

John Fleming was also there to see the park on opening day. He said he's hopeful the landmark can educate all people, especially at a time when some politicians are pushing to ban teaching of Black history.

"If we don't know what really happened in our history, we won't know how to address it at this point," he said.

"Black history in this country is inspiring. It's also a struggle that we have to all deal with. It makes us uncomfortable but makes us more determined," Gov. Roy Cooper said.

The design for the park originated from the late Phil Freelon, an NC State graduate best known for designing the African-American Museum in Washington, D.C.

His son Pierce Freelon walked through the park Wednesday with ABC11's Akilah Davis. He told her his heart was full, absorbing the "Black genius and love that is Freedom Park."

"I absolutely feel my dad's presence. He is a busy ancestor," Freelon said. "I don't just feel my dad's presence, I feel the presence of the myriad of Black excellence to come out of North Carolina, of which my father is a proud part."

When Phil Freelon passed in 2019, Zena Howard became the lead architect of the project.

"I think it's a model for the country and other southern states on how to recognize people that should have been recognized a long time ago," said Howard.

Freedom Park has been a project 20 years in the making.

The official opening this morning was attended by many leaders who made the project possible including Dr. Reginald Hildebrand who is a member of the NC Freedom Park Board of Directors.

"This park is a village of wisdom and courage and strength, its monuments are words and ideas. When you come here you enter and honor the souls of black folk who are speaking to you," said Dr. Hildebrand.

NC Governor Roy Cooper also spoke about what the space means for those that visit.

"They will step into a garden that displays the brutal truth and extraordinary accomplishment found in Black history," he said.