Durham, N.C. Architect Shapes Nation’s View of African-American History

by February 25, 2017

In this Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, photo, architect Phil Freelon responds to a question during an interview at his office in Durham, N.C. For Freelon, the National Museum of African American History and Culture was a crowning triumph, yet its opening last year came amid a wrenching personal trial. His monumental achievement came on the heels of a diagnosis of ALS, a degenerative neurological disease that eventually leads to total paralysis. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

DURHAM, N.C. – The National Museum of African American History and Culture has been in development for a long time, but for architect Phil Freelon it came just in time. He is an architect who prefers to design “projects that contribute to society in some way.” Freelon at 63 was the principal architect for the museum, which opened in September. U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who helped organize the march led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., also helped give birth to the museum. The museum is on the Washington Mall near the famed reflecting pond, site of the 1963 March on Washington.

Freelon, a native of Philadelphia, worked for years in Texas and North Carolina before opening his own firm with one employee — himself. It took more years to build a national reputation, designing projects such as the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta and the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.
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Freelon and ALS

Freelon was diagnosed with ALS, a neurological disease that leads to total paralysis. Average life expectancy after diagnosis is three to five years. In December, Freelon and his family established the Freelon Foundation and launched the Design a World Without ALS campaign to raise $250,000 for the Duke ALS Clinic.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

The National Museum of African American History and Culture(NMAAHC) is a Smithsonian Institution museum established in December 2003. The museum’s building, designed by David Adjaye, is on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Learn more: National Museum of African American History and Culture

Topic in-depth:

Reflections On An Afternoon At The African-American Museum : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR

The museum, the Smithsonian’s newest, opened on Sept. 24, 2016. Beginning in 1988 and continuing for 15 years, civil rights activist and political leader John Lewis (D-Ga.) fought for legislation to allow the museum to be built. That legislation passed in 2003. When, 16 years later, the building was dedicated, in eloquent remarks Lewis called it “a dream come true.” NPR

1 References

Architect shapes nation’s view of African American history Associated Press

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