When we published a Little Known Black History Fact earlier this week, we weren’t expecting such a quick response. After all, the fact was about people who are no longer with us. But in the City of Richmond, those people are still part of a very current decision. When a minor league baseball team wanted to build a new ballpark in an area of Richmond called Shockoe Bottom, they soon came across an amazing discovery – their new home was a former burial and there were still souls buried 14 feet deep underground.
The grounds were home to the Richmond jail at that time and also adjacent one of the more disturbing parts of Richmond’s history – a slave market that was one of the busiest in the country outside of the one in New Orleans, La.
Richmond mayor Dwight C. Jones wanted to add to some of the information presented on the site and the show. The story is very personal for him, as he’s a graduate of Virginia Union University, which was created from some of the land donated by the “widow” of the man the former jail was named after, Robert Lumpkin.
“In Richmond we have a long and complex history involving the slave trade,” says Jones. “Twenty-six percent of Richmonders live in poverty, so I proposed a jobs and economic growth plan to lift up our history. Earlier this week on the show, an area named the “Devil’s Half Acre” was referenced. I’m intimately familiar with that because that’s where my alma mater began in the Virginia Union University.
Shortly after the Civil War began, the African-American widow of a noted slave trader leased the old jail to the Richmond Theological Institute for Freeman and that became Virginia Union.”
“My plan will build up the site and generate the dollars to create a heritage center so more people can see this wonderful site and know this wonderful history. Some have said we’re trying to build a ballpark on that site, but it’s simply not true. In fact, three years ago, I fought to reclaim teh historic slave burial ground and work with the community to remove asphalt and now it’s a wonderful, quiet place of contemplation. Our future plans are to beautify it even more.”
Jones says there is a ballpark planned but not at the former burial ground site, as has been reported. The City of Richmond is looking to raise $30 million for further improvements to the burial ground site, which he says will not be impacted by the ballpark construction.
“It will in no way impact the sacred ground,” Jones says.