Emancipation and Freedom Monument unveiled at Brown’s Island

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 3:21 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2021 at 5:40 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Two weeks after the Robert E. Lee statue is removed from Monument Avenue, a new sculpture now stands in the city - perhaps marking a new era for the former capital of the Confederacy.

The Emancipation and Freedom monument was commissioned by the “Virginia Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission.”

The project to create the statue began back in 2012. It features two 12-foot bronze statues representing a man, woman and infant newly freed from slavery.

“Richmond and Virginia have a come a long way,” said Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.

On the pedestal, there will be the names, images and stories of 10 people whose lives and contributions represent the struggle for freedom before and after Emancipation. The names include Mary Elizabeth Bowser, William Harvey Carney, Gabriel, Dred Scott, Nat Turner, Rosa Dixon Bowser, John Mercer Langston, John Mitchell, Jr., Lucy Simms, and Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker.

“I feel so good for my cousins, and my nephews, nieces, grandchildren, future grandchildren,” said John Mitchell. “They posted pictures, but it’s different when you’re standing in front of it, and you’re looking at it. It’ll take your breath away.”

Mitchell bears the namesake of the first Black man to run for Virginia governor, now one of the people immortalized on the plaque.

He and his cousin, Kimberly Wilson, say they never thought they’d see the state honor their family this way.

“All the Mitchell family are with us here today in spirit and in statue. It’s just so amazing,” Wilson said.

The names on the plaque were nominated by the public in 2016, after a series of public hearing across the Commonwealth. One hundred names were later narrowed down to 10.

“Many, many people whose names are known and unknown were a part of that struggle. Ten are highlighted here on this monument. All of their spirits are here with us today. This has been a labor of love for the commission and anyone who had anything to do with this monument,” said Virginia Senator Jennifer McClellan.

Governor Northam and Mayor Stoney stressed the symbolism of the monument, as the state and the city continue to leave its Confederate past behind.

“Virginia is taking a large step forward and embracing diversity,” said Northam.

“This is a powerful message to the rest of the world about our values. New Virginia Values,” Stoney said.

The monument is located at the end of the Fifth Street pedestrian bridge.

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