A monument commemorating the abolition of slavery was erected in Richmond, Virginia today (Sept. 22), two weeks after the city removed its statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
According to NPR, the 12-foot bronze statue, called the Emancipation and Freedom Monument, was designed by Oregon-based sculptor Thomas Jay Warren. The piece depicts the abolition of slavery, including a man breaking out of shackles and a woman holding her child. The monument’s pedestal also includes the names, images and stories of 10 Black Virginians who contributed to abolition efforts, including lawyer Dred Scott, educator Lucy Simms and Nat Turner, who led a successful slave rebellion.
“It really captured what we were trying to do in that the figures capture the emotion of emancipation, but the people on the base capture who else was involved of the process of fighting against slavery, leading to emancipation and fighting for freedom and equality going forward,” state Sen. Jennifer McClellan told NPR.
The monument was initially scheduled to be erected in 2019, as part of the 400th anniversary of when enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia, but was delayed due to the pandemic.
“This monument has always represented an important part of healing,” McClellan, who spearheaded the effort, said. “Having that happen after COVID, after the George Floyd murder and the reckoning with racial inequity and after the monuments started coming down, it’s much more healing than it would have been in 2019.”
According to McClellan, the monument is also the first state-funded statue to celebrate the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S.
“I think it’s so appropriate that it’s here… Virginia was the birthplace of Western democracy but it was also the birthplace of slavery and all of the horrors that came with it,” she said. “Richmond has been at the heart of that.”
Watch a livestream of the monument being erected and the ceremony celebrating the occasion, which Gov. Ralph Northam attended, on Twitter below.