What did the Emancipation Proclamation do for slaves in Richmond?

Posted at 10:54 PM, Jan 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-02 07:19:58-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - One hundred fifty years have passed since President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation - freeing slaves in states under rebellion.

“One hundred fifty years ago today, our nation awoke to the dawn of freedom," Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said in a statement Tuesday.

"The anticipation that freedom was coming gave new hope to slaves in Richmond," Dr. Shawn Utsey, Chair of the African Studies Program at VCU, said.

Utsey called the move by President Lincoln a "good political move" at the time, noting that the proclamation did not free the slaves in border states.

Utsey said Lincoln was aided in his ability to issue the order by prominent African Americans, including Frederick Douglas.

"We have to be honest with ourselves in that African people were not waiting around to be freed by some proclamation but they were actively seeking their own freedom," Utsey said. 

Members of the Virginia General Assembly have taken an interest in the document with leaders considering a monument to the Emancipation Proclamation.

"The committee will be looking for a location trying to determine the wording," Utsey said.

African Americans reacted to the anniversary with awe Tuesday.

"We have come a long way," Curtis Vieira said. "But we have a long way to go."