New Emancipation Monument Unveiled in Virginia 2 Weeks After Removal of Robert E. Lee Statue

·3 min read
Emancipation and Freedom Monument
Emancipation and Freedom Monument

Shaban Athuman/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP Emancipation and Freedom Monument

The city of Richmond, Virginia has a new monument.

The Emancipation and Freedom Monument was unveiled on Wednesday about two miles away from where the statue of Robert E. Lee once sat, before it was removed earlier this month.

The monument, which has been in the works since 2013, includes two 12-foot bronze statues of a man and a woman holding an infant after being newly freed from slavery, according to a website for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission, the agency behind the artwork.

A group of 10 Black Virginians are also honored for their contributions to the "centuries-long fight for emancipation and freedom" in a plaque on the case of the monument. Out of nearly 100 nominations, five individuals who fought against slavery were chosen, as well as five who fought for equality from 1865 to 1970.

Among the Virginians featured are Dred Scott, William Harvey Carney — a former enslaved person who became the first Black recipient of the Medal of Honor — as well as John Mercer Langston, Virginia's first Black member of Congress.

Emancipation and Freedom Monument
Emancipation and Freedom Monument

Shaban Athuman/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP Emancipation and Freedom Monument

"Today, I attended the powerful unveiling of the Emancipation and Freedom Statue in Richmond. The monument is an important step in telling a more inclusive story of Virginia's history," Gov. Ralph Northam wrote on social media Wednesday.

"The Emancipation and Freedom monument captures the emotion of the end of slavery. It honors the resilience of Black Virginians who resisted, rebelled, and self-liberated," added State Sen. Jennifer McClellan. "Emancipation was not a moment, it was a movement. We carry on the work for equality and freedom today."

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In September, Virginia's Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the graffiti-covered Lee statue could be removed from its spot in the state's capital.

Gov. Northam first announced plans to remove the statue in June 2020 after protests following the death of George Floyd sparked around the country, per the Associated Press.

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In response to the Supreme Court ruling, Northam issued a statement saying that the removal of the statue would allow for "a more inclusive future — where the Commonwealth glorifies the Confederacy no longer."

Officials also plan to install a time capsule in a cornerstone of the pedestal where the statue once stood, which will include dozens of artifacts representing the changes Virginia has gone through since 2020 — including an expired vial of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and a Black Lives Matter sticker.

"This monument...reflected Virginia in 1890 — and it's time to remove both, so that our public spaces better reflect who we are as a people in 2021," Gov. Northam said in a statement at the time, noting that it was "fitting" to include a new time capsule that tells the story of what "led to the removal of these monuments to a lost cause."

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