The Challenges in Building the Texas African-American Monument

How the memorial, installed at the Capitol this week, started out as a Juneteenth sculpture and quickly developed a larger message.

By Michael MarksSeptember 28, 2016 12:44 pm, ,

There were moments when it looked like the Texas Capitol might never have a monument to African-American Texans on its grounds. For two decades, lawmakers squabbled over funding and designs. But yesterday, without much fanfare, the first parts of a monument were installed on the Capitol’s south lawn.

Artist Ed Dwight, who lives in Denver, says a project of this size usually would take about two years – this one took five. Fundraising difficulties and the constant start-stop nature of memorial building made the process longer.

Dwight says the monument, which features close to a hundred images, depicts advancements in agriculture, space, and the arts. But the concept started out very differently, he says.

“The whole thing was centered around the concept of emancipation,” Dwight says. “When I was first called, they were wanting to do a Juneteenth sculpture, but nobody really kind of knew what they really wanted.”

What you’ll hear in this segment: 

– The challenges with projects of this scale

– Dwight’s experience with astronaut training and the politics surrounding it in the 1960s.