Richmond Confronts Past & Present

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."

In addition to museums, battlegrounds and presidential homes, tourists find history at dozens of plantations that are open to the public. 

Often they learn about the big, elegant homes at the heart of those properties – about the people who lived there, but how do mannerly tour guides introduce the harsh subject of slavery?

Tale of Two Flags: Art Sparks Dialogue

Aug 7, 2015
Artist Sonya Clark

At the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, an exhibit called “Posing Beauty” is in its final week.The show features a piece by an African American depicting the confederate and American flags woven in African hair.

To Be Sold

Aug 7, 2015
Library of Virginia, 1812

The Library of Virginia is preparing for a groundbreaking exhibition on the U.S. domestic slave trade that existed after the newly formed American nation outlawed the transatlantic slave trade. 

Richmond was a key player in the pipeline to buy and sell human beings, and some historians believe it sent more slaves to the Deep South than were initially transported across the Atlantic Ocean. 

The “To Be Sold” exhibition begins with the paintings of an English artist who was horrified by what he saw during a visit to Richmond.
 

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