Mayor Dwight Jones fields questions from the press Thursday afternoon. (Photo by Mark Robinson)
Mayor Dwight C. Jones announced Thursday afternoon that his administration would gather community ideas on how best to memorialize Lumpkin’s Jail site in Shockoe Bottom.
A series of meetings, beginning in September, is intended to generate “a city-wide conversation about the future of Lumpkin’s and this heritage asset, ways in which we can make it more vital in our community,” Jones told reporters, elected officials, city employees and community members at a news conference held at Ancarrow’s Landing.
The first meeting with be held on Thursday, Sept. 10 at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in the East End; the second will be Tuesday, Sept. 15 at Huguenot High School on the South Side. More meetings are planned, but not yet scheduled.
The city could unveil a formal plan as early as the end of the year, Jones said.
The Lumpkin’s jail site, called “the devil’s half-acre,” was the epicenter of the city’s slave-trading district from the 1830s through the end of the Civil War. It is also where Virginia Union University, Jones’ alma mater, was founded. “This has a very personal meaning to me,” he said. “We want to be able to see this through.”
In 2013, the state allotted $11 million for the city to memorialize the site, in large part because of the efforts of Delegate Delores McQuinn, a state delegate and former city councilwoman who chairs the Richmond Slave Trail Commission. Thursday’s press conference also marked the formal unveiling of 53 markers along the trail to help people follow the route traversed by slaves who arrived in Richmond’s port.
Thursday’s announcement came with no mention of Jones’ seemingly dead Shockoe Bottom minor league baseball stadium plan, which he proposed in late 2013 as a joint development with the Lumpkins’ site and a slavery museum.
The mayor and his plan came under fire from critics who said the district’s history was taking a back seat. Among those critics were the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, an activist group that has been working for the past six months on a community-generated plan for Shockoe Bottom. That plan will be presented to the public at a community meeting this Saturday, Aug. 15, at 1 p.m., at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, 1720 Mechanicsville Turnpike.