A new sculpture park on the banks of the Alabama River in Montgomery will not only house contemporary works by Kehinde Wiley, Rose B. Simpson, Theaster Gates and others, but will be centred around what is being dubbed the National Monument to Freedom. The centrepiece of Freedom Monument Sculpture Park will be 43ft tall and 150ft long, and will honour the four million enslaved Black people who were emancipated following the end of the US Civil War. The park will open to the public in early 2024.
Freedom Monument Sculpture Park is an initiative of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), an organisation founded and led by public interest lawyer Bryan Stevenson that also operates the National Memorial for Peace and Justice—a memorial to victims of lynchings and other forms of racist terrorism—and the Legacy Museum, both also in Montgomery. Collectively, the three sites overseen by EJI will be dubbed the Legacy Sites.
The new 17-acre park’s central monument will feature the roughly 120,000 documented last names of enslaved people at the time of emancipation, as a tribute to the horrors they endured and the families they built. Writings by civil rights activists Frederick Douglass, James Weldon Johnson and Harriet Tubman will figure prominently in the plaza surrounding the monument.
The contemporary art in the park will include both existing and specially commissioned works. New pieces created by Alison Saar and Kwame Akoto-Bamfo will be installed alongside works by Wangechi Mutu, Wiley, Gates and Simpson.
“In order to deepen our collective understanding of racial injustice and its impact on contemporary issues, our country must reckon with the painful history and legacy of slavery,” Stevenson said in a statement. “Historical examination and memorialisation are critical to help move us forward and build healthier communities, and we’re honoured to work with some of the greatest contemporary artists to provide a cultural space for all visitors to engage with this vital part of history.”
The Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice were inaugurated in 2018. The museum includes Modern and contemporary works by artists including Hank Willis Thomas, Glenn Ligon, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, Titus Kaphar, and Sanford Biggers.