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Fayetteville City Council delays vote on its allocation for Civil War history center

Cumberland County commissioners expected to consider donation on Thursday


The Fayetteville City Council was deadlocked Tuesday night on deciding whether to move forward with the $6.5 million it previously agreed to contribute to building a Civil War history center in the city.

The council voted 5-5 on a motion that it vote on the appropriation at its Sept. 12 meeting. That means it will not be on the agenda.

The N.C. Civil War & Reconstruction History Center would be built with contributions from the city, Cumberland County and the state.

Both the city and county had proposed allocations of $7.5 million for the center, which would be constructed next to the remnants of a Confederate Army arsenal in the Haymount Historic District.

The state is providing $60 million in support in its latest budget, which organizers say was approved after the city and county made their financial commitments six years ago.

Because the city agreed to provide land and Civil War-era buildings for the project, its proposed allocation was reduced to $6.5 million.

Supporting a vote on the allocation at the Sept. 12 meeting were council members Johnny Dawkins, Kathy Jensen, Deno Hondros, Mario Benavente and Derrick Thompson. Opposing it were Mayor Mitch Colvin and council members Courtney Banks-McLaughlin, Brenda McNair, Shakeyla Ingram and D.J. Haire.

Members of the history center staff, who gave the council an update on the project, were backed by a heavyweight group of supporters to help push for the city’s financial support.

They spoke of having “to piece together enough funding” to make the history center a reality.

According to history center representatives who attended Tuesday's City Council work session, the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on its proposed $7.5 million allocation on Thursday.

The group included Reid Wilson, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and Darin Waters, deputy secretary of the state Office of Archives and History.

Wilson oversees the operations of the divisions of state history and maritime museums and state historic sites and properties.

“This history center will look and feel and be different from others," Wilson said. "It will tell more inclusive stories. Going on with that, as we all know, it needs a new name. A proposed name has evolved. What is the best name for this? One that we talked about most recently is the N.C. History Center on the Civil War, Emancipation and Reconstruction. We've added the word 'emancipation' because we want to make sure we tell stories about emancipation. That’s a very important period in the nation’s history. So that is the name I can tell you the state is very comfortable with.”

Organizers have said It will not be a museum but a history center telling stories gathered by groups and individuals statewide.

No statues, monuments or Confederate flags will be displayed at the center, organizers say.

Supporters of the history center, including former Fayetteville State University Chancellor James Anderson, say the complex would be an educational resource and provide some healing for racial and cultural divides.

Anderson cited rising costs as a reason to proceed.

"The longer we delay, the greater will be the cost of that center,” he said. “Which is why we’ve committed to raising private funds throughout the tenure of this center."

Anderson told Councilman Haire that he understands when Haire said he has received pushback from constituents who oppose the center. He said the center will not be another tribute to the Confederacy.

“We’re not going to do that,” Anderson said. ”I’m not going to work with any organization that does something like that.”

He added that any delay would risk state funding for the center.

Waters, of the state Office of Archives and History, said the emphasis of the center’s educational aspect will be to tell more inclusive stories from that time frame, including the history of women and Lumbee Americans.

“It was an important period of American history,” Waters said. “Fayetteville has a unique opportunity to tell this story in a different way.”

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.

Fayetteville, Civil War history center, Cumberland County, City Council