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Rep. John Lewis on Passing of Legendary Architect Philip Freelon

July 10, 2019
Press Release

“It is with great sadness that I learned today of the passing of Philip Freelon, the architect who was the principal designer of the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, DC.  Freelon’s own life was steeped in a love and appreciation for the rich traditions of African American culture, and his work was always an attempt to celebrate the contribution of our people to American society.

“As the son of Allan Freelon, a Harlem Renaissance painter, Phil Freelon viewed architecture as a form of art and design as the way to deliver his aesthetic vision.  The cultural traditions of the black community were a part of his own soul, and he became one of the few designers of choice who we trusted to tell the African American story in bricks and mortar.

“We called upon him to design the National Civil and Human Rights Center in Atlanta and Emancipation Park in Houston.  He designed the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, built at the site of the Woolworth’s sit-in which sparked the student movements of the 1960s.  He was also a principal designer of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, the Durham Transportation Station, and the biomanufacturing research institute at North Carolina Central University, as well as many other projects.

“For our community to lose someone with Phil Freelon’s experience, perspective, and know-how leaves a void that cannot be easily filled.  I will always be deeply grateful for the creative and original vision he invested in the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  He was not afraid to be bold, to be original and to root the design concept in the African American tradition.   As one of the most successful and popular Smithsonian Institution museums, the NMAAHC is a monument to the creative genius of our community and the depth of our contribution to American society.  Phil Freelon was an artist, an architect, and a griot who immortalized our culture in steel, glass, and stone. 

“We are more than lucky but very blessed that his legacy will remain long after the sadness of his passing and will stand as a testament to a man and a people who gave all they had for the cause of justice, beauty, and freedom.  My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Nnenna, and their families.”