Thursday, April 16, 2009

Slave Trade Museum in Shockoe Bottom

Instead of focusing on Shockoe Bottom’s floods, its farmer’s market or randy saloons, a new piece I just wrote for is about righting the record of what was going on down there in the 1800’s, before the Civil War. And, get this — it makes no mention of baseball, whatsoever, but it does offer hope to those looking to improve that neighborhood.

“Doing the Right/Smart Thing” is about making an honest effort to properly understand the business of selling slaves.

When people speak of reparations for the descendants of slaves I understand the sentiment, but the idea of putting a dollar value on such a gesture explodes in my head. Good intentions, or not, it won’t work. The only thing we can do now, to do any justice to those who were sold like beasts of burden, is to tell their story as honestly as we can.

Click here to read the entire piece.


creativeclass said...

Well stated. The slavery museum ought to be located in Richmond because of its strong antebellum associations with the slave trade, and because some of the archaeological sites have survived to remind us of these associations today. Lumpkin's Jail and other potential Bottom sites are truly unique and can help us all to put past injustices into context.

Kyle said...

I don't have any problem with a Slavery Museum in the Bottom, but I don't want Doug Wilder any where near it.

F.T. Rea said...

creativeclass, given what the urban renewal bulldozer did to so many old buildings in Richmond, 30 to 40 years ago, we're lucky that Shockoe Bottom still has so many of them left.

Kyle, Wilder has played games with the slave museum concept so long, with nothing to show for it, I think a lot of people would agree with you.

creativeclass said...

Terry, Shockoe Bottom has an impressive collection of antebellum buildings - no doubt about it. But there may only be one left above ground with a direct connection to the slavery business - at 15th & Cary (and only the bottom two floors, as it was reconstructed after the 1865 Evacuation Fire.) That's why I referred to archaeological sites. In a way, that's not surprising, as neither black nor white wanted to remember the ugly slavery business after capitulation and freedom. The Lumpkin's Jail site was covered by tons of landfill, which ironically preserved what was intended to be buried forever.

As far as Wilder is concerned, he missed a golden opportunity as Mayor (not to mention as the grandson of slaves) to establish the Slavery Museum in his hometown. No matter, we don't need his "help" here anymore.