STATEWIDE — After the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond earlier this month, a new monument to honor the contributions of 10 Black Virginians in the struggle for emancipation and freedom was unveiled on Brown’s Island in Richmond this Wednesday (Sept. 22).
The Emancipation and Freedom Monument project began as part of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the abolition of slavery in the U.S.
Designed by Oregon sculptor Thomas Jay Warren, the 12-foot bronze statues depict a man, woman and infant newly freed from slavery.
The statue’s pedestal includes the names of 10 notable Black Virginians who contributed to freedom both before and after emancipation. The names include Nat Turner, Dred Scott, Mary Elizabeth Bowser, William Harvey Carney, Gabriel, Rosa Dixon Bowser, John Mercer Langston, John Mitchell, Jr., Lucy Simms, and Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker.
The monument was installed on Brown’s Island in Richmond and was unveiled Wednesday, Sept. 22. Gov. Ralph Northam gave remarks at the monument’s unveiling and dedication ceremony.
“We talk often about the need to make sure that we tell and teach the full and true story of our shared history, how we must ensure that everyone understands where we have been so we can build a more inclusive future together,” Northam said. “By necessity, that often includes focusing on the horrors of slavery and the terrors of the Jim Crow era. But in this monument, we see a different part of the story. These figures embody the power of emancipation and the power of freedom.”
Northam noted how the new monument represents different values than the Robert E. Lee statue that was removed two weeks ago.
“Just a couple weeks ago, one of my proudest days, we took down a statue of a man who led an army to stop the emancipation and freedom these figures symbolized,” he said. “As we know that statue honored a lost cause that had burdened Virginia for far, far too many years.”
“These statues are symbols of hope, freedom and of the enduring will to fight for that freedom,” he added.