Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement this morning regarding the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation.
"150 years ago today, our nation awoke to the dawn of freedom. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. In a document that history will forever remember, the President wrote, "I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons." With those words, issued unilaterally by a brave and good man, the evil and shame of slavery upon these shores had met the beginning of its ultimate demise. President Lincoln's historic proclamation was spurred, in large part, by events that took place here in Hampton. It was at Fort Monroe, "Freedom's Fortress", that Frank Baker, Sheppard Mallory and James Townsend, three escaped slaves, had reached Union ground early in the Civil War and were granted freedom by the commanding general. That moment preceded and helped precipitate Lincoln's proclamation. For that reason, and many others, Fort Monroe was declared a national park by President Barack Obama in 2011.
As our nation continues to commemorate and remember the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, I encourage all Americans to come to Virginia and visit Fort Monroe. Walk the battlefields of Manassas and Petersburg. And see Appomattox, where our nation reunited. America is a great nation. We are also a young nation. 150 years is nothing more than a footstep away in the long walk of human history. Today, we remember the history-changing act of a great President. And we thank God for his grace upon our nation, and for the freedom with which he has blessed every human being at birth. That freedom was tragically and wrongly denied to too many for too long here in the United States. We have come far as a country and a Commonwealth; we know our long journey is still far from over. Today is a day to give thanks for our blessings as Americans, as we remember the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation."