History

For poor kids in American cities, life can be hard.  Gangs, guns and drugs are part of the landscape, but one historian says things were even worse in Richmond after the Civil War. More than a thousand lived on the streets including at least 100 kids - selling newspapers for a penny apiece and doing battle with rocks.

Uprooting Appalachia

Sep 8, 2015

The image of “Appalachia” many people have today came from a 1964 Life Magazine story that featured the town.  Now researchers are looking to add another chapter to the story of the small southwestern Virginia town, written in the voices of people who live there today. 

“You know how it got its name, don’t you? This guy had a big old bucket. And he had a whole lot of apples in it and these kids kept messing with it and he said, if y’ all don’t stop that I’m going to throw an Apple a’cha.”

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A two-day teacher institute at the Library of Virginia has provided educators with the opportunity to advance their knowledge about the post-Civil War era-especially how the Commonwealth was transformed by the emancipation of slaves and Reconstruction. One major focus was on the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution-and their significant legacy. 

The “Reconstruction Amendments” sought to eliminate vestiges of the defeated system. The Library’s Public Services and Outreach Director, Greg Kimball, says that began with the 13th Amendment to outlaw slavery.

It’s been more than 20 years since construction workers at Virginia Commonwealth University unearthed the remains of about fifty people in an old well near the Medical College of Virginia.  Historians believe they were the bones of former slaves, whose bodies were stolen from local cemeteries for dissection by medical students. 

Steve Helber/AP via NPR

On a warm spring night, more than 150 people gathered in Shockoe Bottom, a name taken from the Native American word for a site in Richmond.

This part of town, bounded by I-95 and bisected by railroad lines, was central to a city that prospered from the slave trade.

"The best guesstimate is several hundred thousand people were sold out of Shockoe Bottom," says Phil Wilayto, a leader of the grassroots movement to establish a memorial park here. "Probably the majority of African-Americans today could trace some ancestry to this small piece of land."

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