By any measure, 2020 has been a challenging year: A global pandemic. Racial division and strife. Economic turmoil.
Many of you have asked what this means for the future of the North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center.
The answer is simple. There never has been a stronger case for completing the History Center.
The reality of 2020 has compelled our leadership, like that of so many organizations, to re-examine our plans. In March, we were close to receiving a $46 million commitment from the State to complete the third and final phase of our construction plans. We already had in hand $33 million in gifts and pledges from public and private sources alike toward our campaign goal, now at $80 million due to construction cost increases. We were nearing completion of Phase 1, our new education complex, the “History Village.” We were poised to break ground for Phase 2, the construction of the remaining infrastructure pieces of Arsenal Park, including a new pavilion that would provide space for a combination of outdoor classrooms, performances, picnicking, and restrooms. We had already planned an April 2020 celebratory ribbon-cutting for Phase 1 along with the Phase 2 groundbreaking.
Then Covid-19 struck. In the wake of falling revenues, and with the need to mitigate the impact of the virus, the State put on hold funding projects like the History Center.
In late May came the death of George Floyd with the racial strife and unrest that followed.
Either of these events alone would have been a game changer for a project like the History Center. Together, they forced us to reconsider our construction and programming timeframes.
First, we firmly believe that the final capital monies we need to complete this State-owned project can and must come from the State. Rest assured we will continue to work with our local legislative delegation and key leaders in the House, Senate, and Administration to secure the funds necessary to complete this project, and we hope to get some support in the upcoming sessions. We invite any of our friends who are able – including those from outside Cumberland County – to help us win the renewed support of the General Assembly.
Second, like so many institutions, we feel morally obligated to contribute toward bringing our community, state, and nation together. And we believe the History Center is uniquely positioned to do so by leveraging the recently completed History Village to bring our educational programs online as soon as possible.
In August our Board of Directors committed to a three-year, three-million-dollar program – to be funded primarily by foundations – to complete the development of our educational program and roll it out statewide.
This will be an extraordinary achievement. Partnering with UNC Chapel Hill’s Humanities and History departments as well as the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, we will reach out to social studies and history teachers in our 4th, 8th, and 11th grade classrooms across the state to offer them a series of symposia centered around how to teach the “hard history” of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. We learned at our July 2018 pilot symposium at UNC Wilmington that many teachers today are apprehensive about teaching such topics, and some choose not to teach them at all. Our partners at UNCCH have pioneered ways of addressing these very difficult topics including effective strategies for teaching them and, importantly, how to allay any concerns of the parents.
Likewise, we are committed to reaching out to the 19 public and private “schools of education” in colleges and universities across the state and engaging with the next generation of classroom teachers, similarly providing them with the tools necessary to teach “hard history.”
Finally, we are committed to getting our Distance Learning Studio/Classroom at the History Village operating at full capacity, delivering instruction to classrooms across the state.
This brings us to you. Your support has been crucial for getting us to this point, whether you have donated, helped sustain us by joining and renewing your membership, contributed to our growing story archives, or followed us on social media. Indeed, without you, we would not be where we are today.
We ask that you give special consideration now to making an unrestricted gift to the History Center. There probably has never been a more important time in the life of our community, state, and nation for the History Center and institutions like it to continue their missions – in our case, to tell the stories of ALL North Carolinians during the Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction periods. And there has never been a more critical time in the life of the History Center to show your support. Your and others’ contributions will demonstrate to our state and local leadership the public’s enthusiastic endorsement of this vital project.
If you recently have made a generous gift or pledge, we thank you! If not, won’t you please consider donating now? To make a secure, direct donation by credit card, click on this link — http://nccivilwarcenter.org/join/gifts-pledges/ — and then click on the dark blue “Donate Now” button. To make an honorary or memorial gift, to have your gift matched by your employer, or to make a pledge, please send an email with your address to email@example.com and we will put a pledge card and return envelope in the mail to you.
Our best wishes to you and your family for a joyous holiday season.
John M. “Mac” Healy, Chair, Board of Directors