Four years after it was in a state budget that never became law, the Senate budget proposal again calls for funding of a monument to African Americans on the North Carolina state Capitol grounds.
If the Senate’s budget proposal becomes law, the stalled project would receive $3 million in funding for the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources “to complete the planning, design, and construction of the African American Monument, led by the African American Heritage Commission.”
Senate leader Phil Berger told The News & Observer earlier this legislative session that he supported the project.
The long-planned project has been on hold for several years. It was in the 2019 state budget that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed over raises and tax cuts, and smaller budget bills did not include funding. Another project honoring the African American experience in North Carolina, Freedom Park, was funded, however, and will open this summer. Freedom Park is located on the downtown block between the Legislative Building and the Executive Mansion, a few blocks from the Capitol.
There is no monument at the historic Capitol in the center of downtown Raleigh that recognizes the contributions of African American people in North Carolina. Plans for the African Americans monument call for it to be built on the southeast corner of the grounds, and keep in mind the most frequent visitors, who are schoolchildren.
The Capitol grounds project’s funding stalled in legislation after protesters tore down some Confederate statues, and others were removed, at the Capitol in 2020.
Republican lawmakers said previously that it was “not the time to put something back up there of any type,” while Democratic lawmakers called the lack of inclusion “an insult.”
In March, Berger noted that Senate Republicans have supported the monument in the past, adding that the budget committee members had not yet discussed it.
“But I think it’s known that I have supported that in the past, and will continue to support it,” Berger said then.
The N&O has asked lawmakers about the project on and off for years. Sen. Dan Blue, the Senate minority leader and a Raleigh Democrat, told The N&O in February that the project needs to move forward “more urgently now than before,” and referenced all the springtime field trips students make to the Capitol complex.
“There is no experience on the Capitol grounds of Black existence in North Carolina,” Blue said.
Cooper’s budget proposal also would allocate $3 million for the project. It was not in the House budget, but does have bipartisan support there.
The project is led by the African American Heritage Commission within the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.