09NC civilThe Civil War History Center proposed for Fayetteville has struggled with image for the 10 years the idea has been developed. “Mention of the Civil War brings with it the issue of slavery,” said City Councilman Larry Wright. He and some other African-American members of council say nearly half of Fayetteville’s population is sensitive to and struggles with the topic of slavery. Councilwoman Tisha Waddell said that’s precisely why a history center is important to the community.

The facility’s board of directors recently changed the name to the NC Civil War & Reconstruction History Center. Officials believe the new name more accurately describes the center’s purpose, which is to educate.

“This will not be a memorial to or celebration of the Confederacy,” said President Mac Healy. “Our center is searching for stories of how families dealt with the hardships that came as a result of the Civil War.”

Healy said it will not be a museum filled with Confederate weapons and uniforms. Instead, the focus will be on much of the 19th century, including the antebellum run up to the war, the war itself and the reconstruction period between 1865 and 1877.

“We will be the first history center ... in the country that will approach the Civil War and its aftermath from the perspective of what it was like to be living as a citizen of North Carolina at the time,” said Senior Consultant David Winslow. The facility will include a place for permanent exhibits that interpret the antebellum history and the Civil War in North Carolina as well as a 3D theater that portrays U.S. General William Sherman’s final march and Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender at Bennett’s Place.

The History Center Foundation said it is taking an evenhanded approach to North Carolina’s experiences. The Fayetteville Arsenal will be the jumping off point of experiences involving the entire state. Anecdotal stories from all 100 counties will make the center a historic educational destination for Fayetteville. As envisioned, oral histories of people, places and events told and retold through generations will tell the story of what North Carolina was like before, during and after the War between the States. Those personal recollections are still being sought from Tar Heel farmers and businessmen, Native Americans, African-Americans, immigrants, the freed and enslaved.

Research reviewed by the University of North Carolina will be used to write a public-school curriculum to be used by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction statewide. The 60,000-square-foot history center will replace the existing Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex. Since the center was announced in 2014, $27 million has been raised. The city of Fayetteville, county of Cumberland and state of North Carolina have made significant financial commitments. $7 million has been raised privately. Once complete, the center will be owned and operated by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

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