When a Highway and a Coliseum Cut Through A Community

Apr 14, 2016

In the 1950s, construction of Interstate 95 in Richmond divided the Jackson Ward neighborhood, and then construction of the Richmond Coliseum leveled other parts of it. 

“There were just some things that were deeply rooted in the hearts of the black community that pretty much were just wiped off the planet and paved over,” says Lori “Coach” Hunter.

Hunter was a child when she witnessed the destruction of her family’s neighborhood, including her grandmother’s home.

“Whenever we would drive through 7th and Jackson, my mom would always say, we’re driving through Mama’s front door now—and I think that kind of thing, just the systematic destruction of memories and important places of importance to the African American community.”

Hunter says later her family’s church was closed and the building was bulldozed. 

“And so that caused a lot of pain for a lot of people because that’s where they were baptized, they were christened, they got their holy communion there. So they felt violated. I mean, violated. Because, I mean a church is your home. So when you tear down somebody’s church, that’s really tearing at their very roots.”

Hunter says 1965 was a life-changing year for her. It was the year she and her friend who was white went to separate, segregated schools. She started to see the world, and herself, differently. She was five years old.

“I just think it was a loss of innocence of a child just being free to play, and just free to be friends and just, without having to think, ‘Oh, is this person not gonna like me because I’m another color.’”