Reclaiming Our Sacred Ground


Originally published in the Winter 2020 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 61, printed February 17. Reproduced here in for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Winter 2020 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

The Feb. 3 edition of The New Yorker (circulation 1.3 million) carried a major article titled “The Fight to Preserve African-American History” that includes the long struggle to reclaim Shockoe Bottom.

The piece highlights the work of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which has played an important role in focusing national attention on the site of what was once the epicenter of the U.S. domestic slave trade.

After describing other sites where local governments have embraced preservation efforts, the article notes that:

“Not all sites move from the margins to the mainstream so smoothly. At Shockoe Bottom, the Defenders are still fighting to commemorate the legacy of Gabriel’s rebellion and the memory of all the other African-Americans who were sold and buried there. …

“After the Trust included Shockoe Bottom on its most-endangered-places list, the city proposed preserving a single small area, the so-called Devil’s Half Acre, on which the slave trader Robert Lumpkin ran a jail.

“The Defenders are advocating for a nineacre memorial park centered on the burial ground. They point to an economic study commissioned by the Trust, which found that an $8.7-million investment in that park would generate $11.5 million in jobs.”

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