‘Free at last’: Virginia legislators commemorate 400 years of African American evolution

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In light of Presidents Donald Trump’s visit to Jamestown legislators from Virginia gathered Tuesday morning to commemorate the 400 years of African American evolution in the United States.

The event took place at the Lumpkin’s Jail Site, where countless African Americans were imprisoned from the 1830s through the Civil War. The once slave jail is located on 15th and Franklin Streets.

In a prayer, legislators said they gathered at the site as a reminder of their journey.

The program followed with a walk to Main Street Station for a viewing of the ‘Unbound Exhibition.’

The commemoration was organized by Delegate Dolores McQuinn to mark the moment in history when slaves first set foot in the Commonwealth. It included a wreath-laying ceremony that paid tribute to contributions made by the community over the past four centuries.

RELATED: Black Virginia lawmakers to boycott Trump’s Jamestown visit

Guest speakers included Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, Councilwoman Cynthia Newbille and other Virginia-based legislators.

“In these 400 years we have fought with all that we are for freedom, justice and equality,” Delegate Maricia Simone Price said. “So today we pay homage to our ancestors who were in chains.” 

Lawmakers talked about democracy for all, fighting injustice, and raising up the next generation of leaders to fight for what is right for all.

“Must act like the free people we are and everyday work to maintain that freedom,” Del. Price said.

It was an emotional ceremony as many reflected on the pain of the past but also the progress of the past 400 years.

“We are at the right place at the right time, Mayor Levar Stoney said.

RELATED: ‘A momentous occasion’: President Trump congratulates Virginians during Jamestown commemoration

Mayor Stoney encouraged people to stand united and continue to fight against injustices towards marginalized people.

The dozens who gathered all echoed the same message: democracy and freedom for all.

“Have a right to grow up in America and be anything you want to be,” Delegate Dolores McQuinn said. “You can do anything that you want to do and you can give back to the community.”

The Richmond Slave Trail Commission will launch part two of the exhibition at Main Street Station titled, ‘Unbound 2019: Truth and Reconciliation Sunday, August, 4 at 1:30 p.m.

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