The Collegian
Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Richmond, Ayers celebrate 150th anniversary of the Civil War's conclusion

The city of Richmond, which served as the capital of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, commemorated the 150th anniversary of the conclusion of the war through Richmond’s Journey, a series of programs held in the city from April 1-4.

On April 3, 1865, one week before the Confederate army’s surrender and the end of the Civil War, the Union Army invaded Richmond. The unexpected invasion led to the Confederate officials’ evacuation of Richmond, the destruction of a large part of the city, and Richmond’s surrender to the Union. The invasion also led to the end of over 200 years of slavery in Richmond.

“This was the most important thing to have ever happened in our city,” President Ed Ayers said, who was significantly involved in the preparation of the anniversary events.

Ayers’ job was to raise money and seek the involvement of various corporations. The different collaborators worked from seven to eight months in order to put it all together, and the result was a series of events that brought Richmond residents together in celebration of the city’s journey from the end of slavery and the Civil War to today.

According to a report from the Richmond Times Dispatch, the closing event that was held at Capitol Square on Saturday, April 4 featured the presence of an estimated 5,000 people.

Saturday’s event consisted of various ongoing programs, including a pop-up museum, a speaker series, several walking tours, various performances, and programs for families and children. The opening ceremony at 11 a.m. featured a speech by Gov. Terry McAuliffe and a performance by the Virginia Union University Choir.

Ayers said holding such programs and events that serve to educate the public is of great importance, especially during a year when so many issues of race and injustice have gained attention in the country. Historically, Richmond was a place where many of these issues began.

During his years of residence in the city of Richmond, Ayers has been involved in various organizations and efforts that work to educate the public about Richmond’s history.

These include his involvement in The Future of Richmond’s Past, which, according to the university’s website, is “a collaborative effort among leaders of Richmond’s historical societies, museums, commissions, cultural and tourism organizations, and educational institutions to spark inclusive conversations aimed at advancing a better understanding of the city’s history.”

Ayers also participates in “BackStory with the American History Guys,” a public radio program that, according to its website, “brings historical perspective to the events happening around us today.” According to the website, Ayers and other renowned historians tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths.

One of the events last Saturday was a live recording of a BackStory show at the Capitol, in which Richmond’s journey during the past 150 years was discussed.

According to Ayers, it is important for the university to be involved in events such as the ones held last week because the university’s sake is tied to the city’s sake. Ayers sent an email early last week encouraging students, faculty and staff to attend the programs.

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