Emancipation Proclamation


Emancipation and Freedom Monument

As a part of the state's commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation in 2013, the General Assembly, in C-1.30 of the 2012 Appropriation Act, has directed the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission, in cooperation with the Department of General Services, to conduct a feasibility study for the construction of a permanent monument celebrating the emancipation of slaves and freedom in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Funds have been appropriated for this purpose. The Commission and the Department of General Services must report quarterly to the General Assembly on the progress made on site selection, project design, projected costs, fund raising, and project finances.

Public Hearings

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission of the Virginia General Assembly held public hearings throughout the state to receive nominations of notable African American Virginians who have made significant contributions to the emancipation and freedom of formerly enslaved persons or descendants. The names, images, and brief biographical information about selected nominees will be engraved on the Virginia Emancipation Proclamation and Freedom Monument. The Commission has been directed to construct the 12‐foot monument, a permanent memorial celebrating the emancipation of slaves and freedom, pursuant to Item C‐1.30 C. of the 2012 Appropriations Act, (Special Session 1, 2012). The Commission has selected a design by Thomas Jay Warren of Oregon to be located on Brown’s Island in Richmond with an anticipated dedication in conjunction with the Jamestown 2019 Commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first recorded Africans to English North America.

The Commission requested nominations from the public of male and female African American Virginians from the period before Emancipation through 1865, which includes the great African kingdoms and slavery through Emancipation, and the period during the struggle for Freedom (1866‐1970), including Reconstruction, Black Codes, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement. The monument will also include excerpts from the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. A work group consisting of legislative and nonlegislative citizen members, educators, historians, scholars, community leaders, representatives of state agencies, and other persons has been appointed to research suggestions received from the public and recommend to the Commission appropriate African American Virginians who meet certain criteria. Eligible persons must (i) have been native Virginians or have lived a great portion of their lives in Virginia; (ii) be known and recognized as Virginians; (iii) have contributed significantly to Emancipation and Freedom in Virginia and/or the state’s political, social, economic, or cultural history; and (iv) have demonstrated notable achievement or set an important example within their chosen field of endeavor, their region of Virginia, or at the state or national level. Such achievements and contributions will be evaluated within the context of what was customary for African American males and females to have achieved or contributed during the particular time, place, and circumstances in which they lived or worked. Consideration will also be given to ensuring geographical representation of male and female African American Virginians and the full range of backgrounds, disciplines, and fields of endeavors in which such persons were involved.

Public Hearing flyer (pdf)

The Commission invited the public to present nominations, together with documentation, at any the following public hearings.

Thursday, September 22, 2016
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Hampton University Educational Center, 100 East Queen Street, 2nd Floor, Hampton, VA
View event flyer (pdf)

Thursday, October 20, 2016
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Dumas Center for Artistic and Cultural Arts, 108 Henry Street, Roanoke, VA
View event flyer (pdf)

Thursday, October 27, 2016
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
George Mason University, Merten Hall, Room 1201, Fairfax Campus, Fairfax, VA
View event flyer (pdf)

Thursday, November 17, 2016
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Robert Russa Moton Museum, 900 Griffin Boulevard, Farmville, VA
View event flyer (pdf)

Thursday, December 1, 2016
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Library of Virginia Lecture Hall, 800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA
View event flyer (pdf)

Supporting Documents and Articles

Gallery of Student Artwork to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

The Commission received over 150 visual and performing art entries from across the state. Please click on a gallery to watch the slideshow of artwork entered by city and/or county.

Slideshow Galleries
Madison County Entries

Reconstruction Amendments Symposium

Spring 2014

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission will sponsor a symposium in the Spring of 2013 that examines the historical, political, social, and legal context of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution, the import of these Amendments to the rule of law, and the legacy of the Amendments in modern times.

The Amendments, often referred to as the Civil War or Reconstruction Amendments, were enacted during unusual times in the life of the nation. The Amendments abolished slavery, conveyed the right of citizenship to persons born in America and equal protection under the law, and prohibited discrimination against the right to vote on the basis on race or previous condition of servitude.

The symposium will impanel notable legal scholars, historians, educators, and other experts to explore, analyze, and discuss the historical, cultural, social, and political setting of the genesis of the Amendments, the effect of the Amendments on the rule of law and public policy, the relevancy of the Amendments to the quality of life for Virginians and the nation today, whether each Amendment has effectively achieved its purpose, and the necessity for the Amendments in the future.

The Reconstruction Amendments Symposium is an Emancipation Proclamation signature event; therefore, the Commission is planning to collaborate with and invite an institution of higher education or law school to serve as the host site of the symposium, which will be open to the public.

Community Conversation on African and African American Resistance to Slavery

Community Conversation August 2, 2013 & Commemorative Procession August 3, 2013

As our nation celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Remembering Project hosts a Community Conversation on the ways enslaved African Americans fought for their freedom

Event Flyer (pdf)


Remembering Slavery, Resistance, and Freedom in collaboration with the College of William & Mary

The institution of slavery was a national issue that was central to the American Civil War, which resulted in freedom for Africans who survived the cruel captivity. However, because thousands of enslaved Africans did not survive to witness, experience, or enjoy freedom, the Commission is collaborating with the College of William and Mary's Institute of Historical Biology to dignify and honor the humanity of these enslaved Africans by identifying, authenticating, and memorializing slave burial grounds in the Commonwealth, as a signature project of its commemoration of the Emancipation Proclamation.

During the course of the infamous Atlantic slave trade, millions of Africans became involuntary immigrants to the New World, and the first African slaves in the North American colonies were brought to Jamestown, in 1619. The Atlantic slave trade was a lucrative enterprise, and enslaved Africans were a prized commodity to support the economic base of plantations in the colonies.

Many enslaved Africans resisted captivity by fleeing from slave forts on the West African coast and others mutinied aboard slave trading vessels, cast themselves into the Atlantic Ocean, or risked the cruel retaliation of their masters by running away to seek freedom. Although the United States outlawed the transatlantic slave trade in 1808, the domestic slave trade in the colonies and illegal importation continued for several decades.

Slavery, or the "Peculiar Institution," in the United States resembled no other form of involuntary servitude, as Africans were captured and sold at auction as chattel, like inanimate property or animals. To prime Africans for slavery, the ethos of the Africans was shattered, they were brutalized, humiliated, dehumanized, and subjected to the indignity of being stripped of their names and heritage, and families were disassembled as husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, and fathers and sons were sold into slavery apart from one another.

Slave Burial Grounds--"Remembering Slavery, Resistance, and Freedom," a partnership with the College of William and Mary Institute of Historical Biology, for the identification, validation, and mapping of slave burial grounds and old African American cemeteries throughout the Commonwealth


April 27, 2013 from 10am - 12:30pm
Public Forum - Sacred Space: Burial Places of the Enslaved and their Descendants from 10am to 12:30pm at the College of William and Mary, William Small Hall, Room 110 Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander and Dr. Lynn Rainville will present the stories told through cemeteries of enslaved and free African Americans who forged scared space as an undaunted expression of their humanity. Dr. Grey Gundaker and Dr. Hollis Pruitt will lead a public discussion of slavery and sacred space to mark the Sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation. Moderated by Dr. Michael Blakey. More information (pdf)

May 4, 2013 from 10:30am - 1:30pm
Genealogy Workshop: Lead by Paula Royster President & CEO of The Center for African American Genealogical Research, Inc. 10:30am - 1:30pm at The College of William and Mary, Swem Library, Dulin Learning Center, Room 134.

Following the April 27 lecture and discussion on Sacred Space: Burial Places of the Enslaved and their Descendants, a genealogy workshop will be held at the College of William and Mary on May 4. African American genealogical research into the antebellum period has been a challenge due to absent or destroyed records. However, Paula Royster's expertise in utilizing family stories, archival documents, and cemetery sites will guide participants in building a history of their family lineages. Despite the pervasive rending of enslaved families, African Americans maintained family connections and celebrated their past, present and future generations. The May 4 Genealogy workshop will guide participants in seeking their family's story in celebration of this tradition as we remember Emancipation. More information (pdf)

Supporting Documents and Articles

Emancipation Proclamation Concert with the Richmond Symphony

Concert rebroadcasted on Thursday, April 25, 2013

The concert held at Richmond CenterStage on Saturday, April 13, 2013 will be rebroadcasted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 9pm on WCVE Public Television and 88.9FM

Concert Flyer (pdf)