Richmond was fundamental to the formation of American freedom and American slavery. These histories continue to shape Richmond, and the city has recently started to come to terms with its legacy.
The City of Richmond was founded in 1737 by Colonel William Byrd II, and has been the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia since 1780.” In 1755, Patrick Henry delivered his celebrated “Liberty or Death” speech atop Church Hill at St. John’s Church. European demand for tobacco grew over the eighteenth century as colonial settlers transformed the city into a tobacco-producing industrial powerhouse. Staple crop production in Richmond and Virginia came to rely almost exclusively on slave labor by the the late seventeenth century. Richmond was one of the only industrialized antebellum cities in the South, and industrial slavery shaped the city’s private and public life until the American Civil War.
Richmond served as the capital of the Confederacy for the most of the Civil War (1861-65) and witnessed massive industrial growth after 1865. Apart from being the political center of the Confederacy, Richmond served as the Confederacy’s industrial and military hub. As Northern forces made their way towards Richmond, Confederate troops burned a sizable portion of the city. In the years following the Civil War, both African and white Americans rebuilt the city from the literal ashes of the war.
Richmond was the second largest slave trading cities in the country during the mid-nineteenth century. The buying and selling of enslaved people in Shockoe Bottom was a major economic industry for the city of Richmond. It was not until the 1990s that the Richmond community begin to publicly address the slave trade and its lasting impact. The process of reconciling slavery with the city’s popular history is an ongoing effort that remains incomplete.
- Rearing Wolves to Our Own Destruction by Midori Takagi
- Black Labor in Richmond by Peter Rachleff 1853 Richmond and its Slave Market (Digital Scholarship Lab)
- Walk the Slave Trail (City of Richmond Slave Trail Commission)
- Gabriel’s Rebellion (The Richmond Sacred Ground Reclamation Project)
- Learn more about Dr. Shawn Utsey’s short documentary Meet Me in the Bottom: The Struggle to Reclaim Richmond’s African American Burial Ground (Dr. Shawn Utsey, VCU)
Richmond served as the capital for the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865. Many monuments and historic sites in the mark the history of the Confederacy.
- “PRO AND CON: Should Confederate monuments be removed?” (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond.com, 27 July 2015)
- Monument Avenue
- “Mayor Stoney: Richmond’s Confederate monuments can stay, but the ‘whole story’ must be told” (Richmond-Times Dispatch, Richmond.com, 22 June 2017
- “Meet the Black Woman Reclaiming the Narrative of the Civil War,” (NBC News, nbcnews.com, 12 July 2017)
- “Digging up the Past at a Richmond Jail” (Smithsonian Magazine, smithsonianmag.com, March 2009)
To get involved, consider visiting some of the historical sites below:
The city is working to incorporate the slave trade and its legacy into the city’s public history through preservation and interpretation efforts, like the Lumpkin Jail Project. Attend a community meeting associated with the project.
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Question 1 of 4
__________________ was a slave-trading complex, which operated in the Shockoe Bottom district of Richmond until the Civil War.Correct
Bought by Robert Lumpkin in 1844, Lumpkin’s Jail housed slaves on their way to market, boarded slave traders/owners, and held fugitive slaves. The jail, located near the James River and railway system, proved instrumental in making Richmond second largest slave trading center in the United States.
Question 2 of 4
Established in 1865 by the American Baptist Home Mission Society, it began as Richmond Theological School for Freedmen on Richmond’s Devil’s Half-AcreCorrect
Virginia Union University, established in 1865, was originally located in Robert Lumpkin’s slave jail on the infamous Devil’s Half-acre. By the mid-twentieth century, VUU had grown from a Reconstruction-era seminary school into the focal point of black intellectualism in Richmond.
Question 3 of 4
This Virginia Governor was instrumental in the creation of Richmond’s world renowned Monument Avenue in 1890.Correct
Virginia’s Governor, Fitzhugh Lee (nephew of General Lee) helped establish Monument Avenue. However, Lee not only broke tradition by not placing his uncle’s statue on the State Capitol’s grounds, he very openly referred to the creation of Monument Avenue as a “plain business proposition.” In fact, Monument Avenue was primarily about speculative land development on Richmond’s western frontier.
Question 4 of 4
After a long siege , Ulysses S. Grant eventually captured both Petersburg and Richmond in April of 1865. __________________ abandoned Richmond before Union forces arrived.Correct
Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, evacuated on the Richmond and Danville railway Richmond prior to Grant’s arrival. He was eventually captured on May 10 near Irwinville, Georgia and imprisoned for two years at Fort Monroe, Virginia.