The Richmond Slave Trail mirrors the experience of many African slaves in Richmond. It begins on the south side of the James River at Ancarrow’s Landing and ends a little more than three miles later at the First African Baptist Church near Main and 15th streets.
Ancarrow’s Landing and the Manchester Docks: Many African slaves likely arrived in Richmond at this location. This was once an active slave-trading site, where human beings were sold and transported.
Slave Trade Path: This was the path taken by many African slaves brought into Richmond. They were transported down this path to Lumpkin’s Jail, which was used as a holding center for human beings before they were taken to auction houses.
Mayo Bridge: This bridge was built to connect Manchester and Richmond. This allowed for an increase in business, much of which revolved around the slave trade.
Kanawha Canal: Built in the 18th century, this canal system brought a major increase of commerce to Richmond. The canal system was built by slaves and became a means of transporting African slaves to and from the city.
Auction Houses: A number of old auction houses lie in the Shockoe Bottom. These nondescript buildings once served as places where people were sold alongside goods and livestock. On average, African slaves sold for about $900 each. Women were worth more than men because they could reproduce. Young, healthy slaves went for more money. Skilled slaves were the most valuable.
Reconciliation Statue: Three identical statues have been erected in Richmond; Benin, West Africa; and Liverpool, England. Those locations played key roles in the worldwide, triangular trade route of slaves: Slave ships were built in England; they sailed to Africa to obtain slaves; the slaves were brought to the United States. (Richmond was the second-largest slave market in the U.S., after New Orleans.) These statues of two people embracing represent a goal of the Slave Trail Commission – creating dialog to reconcile with the violent past.
Lumpkin’s Jail: The jail was a holding area for Africans before they were taken to various auction houses. Much of this site, once called “the Devil’s Half-Acre,” has been covered by development, such as construction of Interstate 95. A recent archeological dig uncovered a number of artifacts and the base of jail. After the Civil War, Lumpkin’s Jail was transformed into a school for African-Americans; the school eventually became Virginia Union University.
Negro Burial Ground: Situated near Lumpkin’s Jail, many African-Americans were executed here. They include Gabriel Prosser, who attempted to lead a rebellion against Virginia’s government. Often overlooked forerunners to the civil rights movement, Gabriel and his supporters wanted equality of all races. The land is currently owned by Virginia Commonwealth University and is used as a parking lot.
First African Baptist Church: Founded in 1841, this church became an integral part of Richmond’s African-American community. At the time, African Americans were forbidden from holding meetings outside of churches, so this building served an important function within the community.
Compiled by Stephanie Power and Anna Yates from information provided by Sa’ad El-Amin and Beverly Crawford