Joint Statement by the Richmond Slave Trail Commission and Virginia Commonwealth University
Friday, June 6, 2008
State, City and VCU leaders met Thursday at the state historic
preservation office to discuss the future of a property recently purchased by
the university. The property, long used as a parking lot, may be the site of an
early African American burial ground.
The meeting was organized by Director of the Department of Historic
Resources Kathleen S. Kilpatrick, and attended by General Assembly Member
Dwight C. Jones, Richmond City Council President William J. Pantele, Council
Vice President and Slave Trail Commission Chairman Delores L. McQuinn, Virginia
Commonwealth University Vice President for Government Relations and Health
Policy Don Gehring, VCU Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration
John M. Bennett, and VCU Associate Vice President for Facilities Management
Brian J. Ohlinger.
The location and condition of the burial ground, its
relationship to the parking lot in question, and treatment considerations are
complicated by many factors. These include changing uses of the land over time,
the construction of I-95, the diversion of Shockoe Creek, previous levels of
disturbance in the area, and even the placement of upwards of 30 feet of fill
in some places. The exact location of the burial ground is not a settled matter
at this time.
Acknowledging the power of the story of the African American
experience in the City of Richmond, the parties agreed
that VCU would suspend plans to repave the lot pending a careful examination of
the historical evidence. The parking lot property is within a larger area that
included the infamous Lumpkin's Jail as well as an early slave and free African
American burial ground. The area is
therefore central to preserving and telling that story.
The Department of Historic Resources will work closely with the
Slave Commission and the research community to explore the most likely location
of the early burial ground and its relationship to the VCU property in
question. These findings will inform
discussions about sensitive use of the site and steps to honor and share the
history of the area with the public.
Speaking on behalf of the Richmond Slave Trail
Commission, Chairman McQuinn said, "The meeting was enormously productive
and led to significant progress that will help us identify the location of the
burial ground and ultimately decide how to memorialize a sacred