Log in Newsletter

City Council authorizes $450,000 for planned Black Voices Museum


Editor's note: This story has been updated to include information from Mac Healy,  chairman of the board of the N.C. Civil War and Reconstruction History Center and comments by Robert Van Geons, president and CEO of the Fayetteville Cumberland Economic Development Corp.

The city is contributing $450,000 for a planned Black Voices Museum downtown.

The Fayetteville City Council authorized the appropriation at its meeting Monday night.

Organizers say the museum would spotlight the rich history of African Americans in Fayetteville and Cumberland County.

The Learning Together Co., which is promoting the proposed museum, has asked for a total of $895,000 from the city and the county.

In April, the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners voted 5-1 to set aside $450,000 for the museum. That would cover half of the cost of the initial phase of the proposed project.

“Half from the city and half from the county,” Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin said Tuesday. “We voted last night to give them $450,000. What that is for (is) the planning, the design. … They’ll be back once they come back from that.

“It was a pretty thorough memorandum of understanding entered with them,” Colvin said of the museum planners. “I think we can use a similar model when talking about the N.C. history center.”

The agreement is among the museum planners and the county Board of Commissioners, the city and the Community Development Foundation.

The N.C. Civil War & Reconstruction History Center has been a controversial idea from the start. Critics say the center would not be the right move for Fayetteville because of the racial implications of its subject matter.

Earlier this month, the City Council delayed voting on a request for $6.5 million for the history center.

Colvin said he would support similar conditions on funding for both projects.

The city is requiring the Black Voices group “to establish a committee acceptable by the City Council who will handle content selection and curating,” Colvin said in a message to the City Council.

“I believe we must be equitable and consistent,” he wrote.

Robert Van Geons, president and CEO of the Fayetteville Cumberland Economic Development Corp., has frequently supported Black Voices organizers when they have pitched the idea to the City Council and county Board of Commissioners.

"One of the biggest things we want to do is engage to collect and borrow the actual documents," Van Geons said of museum reference materials. "A big part of that is cataloging, connecting, engaging with local historians and bringing on board people that can do the research. That's the first step.

"I think what we've got is an early stage of concept that continues to resonate with everybody we have spoken to," he said. "We need to tell this very important story, ..."

Dauv Evans, the project director, and William Cassell, the project coordinator, have been having discussions for the past few years about building a museum in Fayetteville to acknowledge the achievements of the area's Black community. As proposed, the museum would tell the story of how Black culture has shaped Fayetteville and Cumberland County, from the founders of Fayetteville State University to the present-day social justice movement.

Sir David Adjaye was selected to design the museum. Adjaye is perhaps best known for designing the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

On Monday night, Mac Healy made another pitch to the City Council on behalf of the Civil War history center. Healy is chairman of the center's board of directors.

Healy said he had received some calls from members of the council and wanted to try to answer some questions.

He said one of the center's projects is to procure 100 historical stories from each county in the state.

“The question was, were we going to be committed to diversity and inclusiveness in those stories?” Healy told the council. “We are committed to diversity, race, religion, men and women, everything in those stories. As we collect our stories, you have our word we will commit to being inclusive and diverse in the stories that we have in our record."

Another question, he said, was about governing boards.

“We have an advisory board right now,” he said. “And unlike a lot of museums and history centers in the state of North Carolina, we set this up so there would be a local advisory board for input. This board will advise the state and programming and exhibits. It's different from a lot of places. This is an advisory board set up. We welcome participation on that.”

At 7 p.m. Oct. 10 and 10 a.m. Oct. 11, Highland Presbyterian Church, at 111 Highland Ave., will host a community forum on the history center as part of its organizers’ public outreach. The center's design team will display storyboards that will be the beginning of the content of the history center, according to Healy.

“This will be left for a week for citizens, at their leisure, for a walk-through and (to) make suggestions, corrections and give any input they want on those,” Healy said. “We'll take those back and get with the historians.”

Mayor Colvin said Tuesday he is unsure what the council’s next step would be on the Civil War & Reconstruction History Center.

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

City Council, Fayetteville, Black Voices Museum, history