150th Anniversary of Slavery's End
2/22/2011
The Civil War sesquicentennial doesn't just mark the 150th anniversary of a war. It also honors the freedom of 4 million enslaved humans.
The Civil War sesquicentennial doesn't just mark the 150th anniversary of a war. It also honors the freedom of 4 million enslaved humans. Richmond, Va. -- once a center of slave trade and the capital of the Confederacy -- is confronting its past head on, calling its sesquicentennial commemoration the Civil War and Emancipation 150th Anniversary. 

Though Abraham Lincoln didn't sign the Emancipation Proclamation until Jan. 1, 1863, emancipation began when the war did, says Edward Ayres, University of Richmond president and leader of a committee planning the commemoration. "African-Americans began freeing themselves at the first opportunity, which was indeed at Fort Monroe, where they went to offer their aid to Benjamin Butler and the Union Army," Ayers said during an online discussion hosted by the Washington Post.

The Hampton, Va., fort was nicknamed Freedom's Fortress after Maj. Gen. Butler declared May 27, 1861, that escaping slaves who reached Union lines wouldn't be returned to bondage. Slaves fled to the Union Army around the fort, which served as Butler's Virginia headquarters.