North Carolina Freedom Park
In the heart of Raleigh, North Carolina, Freedom Park offers an experience of awakening, imparting to visitors a sense of identification with African American heritage. As a civic educational space, the park is a visible tribute to North Carolinians of African American descent and their contributions to the state’s history, long overlooked and largely missing among the landmarks and monuments in the capital.
The North Carolina Freedom Park occupies a prominent site in downtown Raleigh, symbolically opposite the North Carolina Legislature building. A place of remembrance, education, and introspection on the state’s past, this park is a place of aspiration and looking forward to a more positive future for all of North Carolina’s citizens.
The park’s design symbolizes an excavation of history through carved passageways that expose a hidden story. Five “pathways to freedom” recognize individualized struggles. Rather than erecting memorial statues, the design team engraved historical quotes from notable Black North Carolinians into the pathways themselves. Enslaved persons, soldiers, poets, preachers, journalists, civil rights leaders, and politicians are represented, among others. Many of the quotes are inspirational, while others—like “I can’t breathe,” the last words of George Floyd before his murder in 2020—serve to remind the public that a history of violence against Black people in the U.S. is not exclusive to the past, but is an ongoing civil rights struggle.
The paths lead to the park’s center, anchored by a 47-foot public artwork designed by Perkins&Will and fabricated by Demiurge called The Beacon of Freedom. The metal sculpture, which is painted gold, glows at night like a flame; it is inspired by a quote from North Carolina civic leader and activist Lyda Moore Merrick: “My father passed a torch to me, which I have never let go out.” To the design team, it signifies hope and encouragement.
-Reginald Hildebrand, North Carolina Freedom Park Board of Directors