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Precisely two weeks after ripping apart a 60-foot tall statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, officials debuted a new monument Wednesday morning that commemorates the abolition of slavery.
The Emancipation and Freedom Monument features two 12-foot bronze statues representing a man, woman and baby newly freed from U.S. chattel slavery, according to NBC12.
The awe-inspiring monument was commissioned by the Virginia Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission. Oregon-based sculptor Thomas Jay Warren designed the project, which stands on Brown’s Island on the James River in downtown Richmond.
Poetic justice: monuments of Black people replace racist Confederate ones
The project began in 2012 and was expected to debut in 2019, marking 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia. Yet, its debut in 2021 comes as officials in various states take down confederate monuments.
Recently, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point unveiled a 2,000-pound bronze statue of Staff Sgt. Sanders H. Matthews.
That monument stands as the first outdoor statue of a Black man on West Point’s campus and honors the Buffalo Soldiers, a famous group of Black soldiers who taught horsemanship to White cadets more than 100 years ago.
Emancipation and Freedom Monument brings “healing”
Virginia state Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) leads the Virginia Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission and highlighted the poetic justice of having the Emancipation and Freedom Monument erected in the state.
“This monument has always represented an important part of healing,” McClellan told NPR. “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.”
Noting the significance of the event, state Sen. McClellan said it’s the first state-funded statue celebrating emancipation in the United States.
Moreover, names, images and stories of important men and women who contributed to the freedom of Black people before and after emancipation cover the pedestal of the monument.
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.
“Virginia was the birthplace of Western democracy, but it was also the birthplace of slavery and all of the horrors that came with it,” McClellan said. “Richmond has been at the heart of that.”