• National Trust Urges High Speed Rail in Shockoe Bottom Proceed with Utmost Caution

    November 7, 2017

    In recent weeks, a proposal to link Washington, D.C. and Richmond through a high speed rail system has been gaining steam. This proposal includes construction of a new railroad facility at Main Street Station in Shockoe Bottom. Construction of a high-speed railroad facility and the real estate development that is likely to follow have the potential to impact the hallowed place we seek to commemorate through creation of a Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park. In the long-term, the impacts could be positive and could be negative. It is indisputable, however, that the federal review process for the railroad facility will substantially influence the City’s promised master planning for Shockoe.

    Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Michael Paul Williams captured the concerns of National Trust’s Senior Field Director and Attorney, Rob Nieweg and our local partner Ana Edwards in a column that ran today entitled, Environmental impact of rail project on Shockoe slave heritage is concerning.”

    As Rob points out in the column, as the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) evaluates the potential environmental impacts of the facility at Main Street Station, it is essential that the FRA pay close attention to the archaeological, historical, and cultural values that are embedded in Shockoe Bottom.

    In a draft environmental impact study, there is scant attention paid to the deeply significant slave history of Shockoe Bottom and authors dismiss any direct impacts on historical sites like Lumpkin’s Jail and the African burial ground. According to Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, the Lumpkin’s Jail site is about 125 feet from the closest area of potential disturbance; the burial ground, about 200 feet.

    The public is invited to participate in the federal review process by providing a comment at http://dc2rvarail.com/contact-us no later than November 7th. Please join the National Trust and our allies in telling the FRA that Shockoe Bottom is a significant historic place. That the proposed railroad facility has the potential to harm Shockoe. And, that FRA should fully explore ways to “avoid, minimize, or mitigate” any future harm to Shockoe.

    Additional messages to consider when formulating your comments to FRA include:

    • The African Burial Ground, Devil’s Half Acre (Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site), and other buried remains throughout Shockoe Bottom are extraordinarily significant archaeological, historical, and cultural resources because of their association with the nation’s enslavement history. This National Treasure merits protection against harm.
    • Only one archaeological site in Shockoe Bottom has been investigated and documented – the Devil’s Half Acre. Archival research has indicated a high likelihood that additional archaeological remains survive in Shockoe. Therefore, the Federal Railroad Administration should commission a thorough study of the archaeological, historical, and cultural resources in Shockoe Bottom – before making any decision about the proposed high-speed rail facility. As part of this study, it is essential that Shockoe is fully evaluated for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
    • To protect Shockoe, the Federal Railroad Administration needs to expand the so-called “Area of Potential Effects” to encompass Shockoe’s archaeological, historical, and cultural resources, pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act. In addition, the FRA must consider the full range of potential impacts – “direct, indirect and cumulative” -- to these surviving resources. Importantly, the FRA must also consider various ways to “avoid, minimize, or mitigate” potential harm from the railroad facility, and any reasonably foreseeable real estate development.
    • The archaeological remains in Shockoe Bottom are not the kind of typical archaeological site that is valuable primarily for “data recovery,” but these resources have extraordinary importance and should be preserved, interpreted, and commemorated in place.
    • Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act prohibits the “use” of any historic property or park land in connection with a transportation project, unless there is “no feasible and prudent alternative” to doing so. The African Burial Ground, Devil’s Half Acre, and the proposed Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park are all historic sites and/or parks that could be “substantially impaired” by the proximity of the high-speed railroad project, thus triggering the prohibition of Section 4(f). In addition to the mandatory preference for alternatives, Section 4(f) also requires that the Federal Railroad Administration’s Main Street Station project incorporate “all possible planning to minimize harm.”

    Thank you in advance for providing your comments about Shockoe Bottom to the Federal Railroad Administration by November 7th.

    Comments may be submitted:

  • Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park Public Comment Opportunity

    September 18, 2017

    Our campaign to fully preserve and interpret Shockoe Bottom continues!

    Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is extending the process begun by former Mayor Dwight Jones to erect a traditional museum atop the Devil’s Half-Acre/Lumpkin’s Jail site in Shockoe Bottom.

    The museum planners are collecting public comment on the museum’s Statement of Purpose until September 20, 2017. Join us today in sending the message that the deep and complex history of Shockoe Bottom is better served by a nine-acre Memorial Park.

    The time is right for the City to move forward with a more expansive and inclusive vision for what was once the second largest slave trading center in the U.S. Mayor Stoney’s Monument Avenue Commission seeks community input in how best to offer context to the Confederate history on display on Monument Avenue.

    The Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park plan does exactly that. Expanding the Lumpkin’s museum project to create a Memorial Park would provide areas for contemplation, healing, and reflection while fully honoring the people and events of this essential but often ignored part of Richmond’s heritage.

    Richmond can lead the nation by creating a memorial park that will provide needed balance and perspective in promoting reconciliation and telling a more complete story of slavery and the Civil War in Richmond. Adopting the Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park is the blueprint to do so.

    More information about the Devil’s Half-Acre/Lumpkin’s Jail museum project is available at http://www.lumpkinsjail.org.

  • NAACP Joins Call for a Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park

    September 19, 2016

    “It would be hard to think of a place more important to black history in the entire United States,” -- Richmond Branch NAACP President Lynetta Thompson

    On September 12, we joined the Richmond chapter of the NAACP, the Defenders’ Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project, and dozens of other supporters in urging the Richmond City Council to support the design proposal for a Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park. This concept goes beyond the current mayor’s vision for a small museum atop the Devil's Half Acre/Lumpkin’s Jail site to include the African burial ground and two additional city blocks where other slave jails and trader offices once stood.

    Local media covered the event, including a segment by the local ABC affiliate (with video), a story by the local CBS affiliate (with video), and a piece by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

    Add your voice to the call for an expanded concept for Shockoe Bottom! We’re accepting public comments here.

  • Nine-Acre Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park Gains Momentum

    September 14, 2016

    photo by: The Center for Design Engagement

    This week's city council meeting, in which the full plan for a large park recognizing and honoring the importance of Shockoe Bottom to the history of slave trading in the United States was presented, continues to draw media attention in the Richmond area.

    In a new report from WTVR, Ana Edwards, one of our partners in this National Treasures project, said:

    "In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the great historical importance of Shockoe Bottom as the epicenter of the U.S. domestic slave trade," Ana Edwards, chair of the Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project of the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, said. "The nine-acre site of the proposed park represents the heart of this center. It’s history, and relevance to the present must be explored, through archaeology, education, public art, markers and events."

    "We believe that a nine-acre Memorial Park, encompassing the African Burial Ground, the site of Lumpkin’s Jail and two more blocks east of the CSX railroad tracks, would be large enough to tell the full story of the nearly 100 sites in the Bottom once associated with the massive trade in human beings and also block any future inappropriate, profit-driven development, while still allowing for appropriate development within a recognized historic district," Edwards said.

    The National Trust is still collecting comments on the park plan. You can view them and submit your thoughts here.

  • Dozens show support for nine-acre memorial in Shockoe Bottom

    September 13, 2016

    Dozens of supporters attended Richmond's city council meeting on Monday, bearing signs that said "Save Shockoe Bottom" and "Protect Our Sacred Ground." They came to support the community-generated plan for a nine-acre memorial in Shockoe Bottom that would include an African burial ground, the Lumpkin's Jail site, as well as two additional city blocks that were once home to other slave jails and traders' offices.

    “The whole story of what happened here in Richmond, Virginia should be told,” said Dawn Smith, whose ancestors are buried in Shockoe Bottom. “Our remains should be respected,” Smith told 8News.

    Presented over a year ago, the proposed park covers nearly 100 Shockoe Bottom sites that made Richmond the epicenter of the U.S. domestic slave trade. “We shouldn’t try to hide it anymore,” Smith said of the region’s sometimes ugly history.

    The park would include more sites important to the history of slave trade in Richmond than the "narrower, as-of-yet-undefined memorial focused on the Lumpkin’s slave jail archaeology site" favored by Mayor Dwight C. Jones and his administration. Supporters of the larger park, led at Monday's meeting by Richmond Branch NAACP President Lynetta Thompson, continue to push for a more inclusive memorial of Shockoe Bottom's history.

    More on Monday's city council meeting and the proposed memorials for Shockoe Bottom at WRIC and Richmond-Times Dispatch.

    photo by: The Center for Design Engagement

    The proposed plan for a nine-acre memorial park in Shockoe Bottom

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