By Joseph Ax
(Reuters) – Two weeks after Richmond, Virginia, removed a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that had prompted protests over racial injustice, the city unveiled a new monument on Wednesday commemorating the end of slavery.
The Emancipation and Freedom Monument, designed by Oregon sculptor Thomas Jay Warren, comprises two 12-foot bronze statues depicting a man and a woman carrying an infant, newly freed from slavery.
“The enslaved built this city with their hands,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said at a ceremony to mark the occasion. “We will rebuild this city with our hearts.”
The new monument is located less than two miles from the site where the towering 61-foot Lee statue had stood for more than a century.
Statues honoring the leaders of the Confederacy, the pro-slavery group of Southern states that seceded from the United States and fought in the 1861-65 Civil War, have become targets of anti-racism protests. Richmond was the Confederate capital during the war.
Governor Ralph Northam announced the Lee statue’s removal in June 2020, days after George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, sparking nationwide demonstrations.
“Just a couple of 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 symbolize,” Northam said at Wednesday’s ceremony.
The pedestal features the names and biographies of 10 Black Virginians who contributed to the fight for liberty before and after emancipation, including Nat Turner, who led a briefly successful slave revolt in 1831 in the state, and Dred Scott, a slave whose unsuccessful lawsuit seeking his freedom led to the infamous U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1857 that people of African descent were not entitled to citizenship.
The project began a decade ago as part of the state’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which abolished slavery in the United States.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)