Long awaited African American Monument unveiled at capitol

AUSTIN - In the South Lawn of the State Capitol, hundreds witnessed the unveiling of the African American History Memorial Monument on Saturday morning.

It was a day 20 years in the making.

"This was a long drawn out process. You had to raise the funds, you had to find a location for it on top of that, finding the sculptor," said Eric McDaniel, government professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

McDaniel is also the Vice President of the Gamma Eta Lambda chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, a group that was integral in making the monument a reality. McDaniel with hundreds of others listened to one dignity after another give speeches. Among those who spoke were: Houston Mayor, Sylvester Turner; State Representative, Helen Giddings; State Senator, Rodney Ellis and Governor Greg Abbott.

At times, emotions ran high as Mayor Turner gave an inspirational speech about how he owed the African American men and women who came before him for his current position. After all the thank yous and obligatory recognitions, it was time for the unveiling.

But the covering did not want to come off the monument.

It took a worker by the name of Frank to climb the monument and unhook part of the covering that got stuck on the statue. But even that took a few minutes which made the crowd a little nervous. They started chanting his name, "Frank! Frank! Frank!" as a sign of support.

Eventually, the covering fell to the ground and revealed the 30 foot long, 10 foot high bronze and granite monument.

Luis Padilla was dressed in honor of the Buffalo Soldiers, the first African American men in the US army.

"It symbolizes steps in the right direction, unity. We're here and we have a monument on the Capitol grounds," said Padilla.

He also brought his oldest son with him to witness this historic day.

The two-sided panorama capsulated more than 400 years of black experience in Texas. Contributions that ranged from cattle, cotton, oil, labor and space exploration.

"This is just acknowledging what one group has done to make the whole better," said McDaniel.

The monument took 20 years to come to fruition and $2.5 million. $1.5 million of that is state money.


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