Call it a preemptive rebuke. Hours before Mayor Dwight C. Jones' administration was to discuss its plan for memorializing the Lumpkin's Jail site, advocates of a more expansive recognition of the city's slave-trading past challenged him to think bigger.
Speakers at a press conference, organized by the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, are pushing an alternative proposal, first unveiled in the summer, that includes a nine-acre swath of Shockoe Bottom. Most of the area would be dedicated to a memorial park run by a nonprofit of stakeholders and funded, in part, by money set aside by the state and City Council for some type of commemoration of the Bottom’s history.
“Focusing solely on Lumpkin’s Jail is insufficient for telling the whole story of one of the most important physical sites for understanding the history of black people in this country and the development of this country as a whole,” says Ana Edwards, chair of the Defenders’ Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project.
Memorializing the Lumpkin’s site, which eventually became the founding place of Virginia Union University, has been the focus of a series of public meetings called Richmond Speaks, hosted by the Richmond Slave Trail Commission and the Jones’ administration. An initial report on community feedback indicated participants wanted to expand the scope of the project to include more of Shockoe.
Vera Williams, founder and president of the Solomon Northup Foundation, joined Edwards in calling for the city to expand the project’s scope. “We cannot allow the history of Shockoe Bottom to be forgotten,” she says.
Jones’ administration is hosting a public forum at 6 p.m. on Thursday night at the University of Richmond to map out next steps for the project.