slave_reconcilitory_statueEven though Richmond was once the city with the largest US slave market, Virginia's capital is now at the forefront of slavery reconciliation efforts. The capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War, Richmond today is no longer 'Whistling Dixie,' but making an effort to embrace multiculturalism and diversity. The city has begun educating the public about slavery and African Diaspora heritage trails. One of the most important symbols of Richmond's efforts to move in a positive direction is the Slavery Reconciliation Statue.

Unveiled in March 2007, the Richmond Slavery Reconciliation Statue is one of three of its kind worldwide recognizing the evils of the slave trade. The half-ton bronze, 15 ft. sculpture depicting two people melded in an embrace is a symbol of apology for slavery. Identical statues are in Liverpool, England and Benin, West Africa memorializing the British, African and American triangular trade route, now identified as the Reconciliation Triangle. For three quarters of the 18th Century, Liverpool, Benin and Richmond represented one of the largest global commercial trade triangles of enslaved Africans. Richmond was once one of the busiest slave centers in America with more than 300,000 slaves sold in the years leading up to the Civil War.

The Slavery Reconciliation Statue, located in Richmond's Shockoe Bottom district, is one of nine sites on the Richmond Slave Trail.The entire path along the Richmond Slave Trail is filled with interesting bits of history about slavery and the slave trade, making it one of the most significant African Diaspora Heritage Trails in the United States. In an effort to educate people, make amends for the horrors of its past and to recognize the slavery perspective as part of its own heritage, the city of Richmond has made plans to further develop the Slave Trail and its black heritage sites.

Even though the allocation of so much money has been met with controversy, architects for the project say that the trail is the first phase of a three-part plan to develop a $100-$150 million heritage complex in Shockoe Bottom. The project will include a slavery museum, an African-American genealogical center, a glass-enclosed site of Lumpkin’s Jail, and the revitalizing of the historic Negro burial ground. Funded by a $50,000 grant from Venture Richmond, the Slave Trail will feature 16 3-foot-by-3-foot enamel panels set on a granite base, each describing an aspect of the area’s history as it relates to the slave industry and/or emancipation.

A trail outlining the paths countless slaves traveled on their journey into forced servitude, the Slave Trail presently is a walking tour with markers along the 2.5-mile trek, found along the site of the Manchester Docks, to the site of the First African Baptist Church. Along the Canal Walk Plaza, you will find a marker honoring Henry Brown, a slave that escaped Richmond by nailing himself in a crate where he was packaged for 27 hours until his deliverance to freedom in the North. You can also visit original auction houses in Shockoe Bottom where slaves were auctioned and sold along other commodities. Another marker on the Richmond Slave Trail is Lumpkin's jail, once one of the largest and most notorious slave jails in antebellum America, where a rented complex of this jail later evolved into Virginia Union. Also, pay homage at the Negro Burial Ground, where you will find many unmarked graves around the hillside.

Continue on your heritage tour to visit one of the nation’ s oldest intact African America neighborhoods Jackson Ward, the largest National Historic Landmark District associated with African American history. Once referred to as the "Harlem of the South" because of its vibrant culture and thriving community, this is the neighborhood district where Bill “Bojangles" Robinson danced and Duke Ellington played. One of the birthplaces of African American banking and commerce, many generations of blacks worked here in what was then also called The Wall Street of Black America because of its many banks and businesses. Jackson Ward is where Maggie Walker, the first woman in the US to charter and serve as president of a bank, lived and worked.

Maggie_Walker_histojavascript:void(0);ric_SiteYou can learn more about this remarkable woman by visiting the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site which includes the bank she ran, her residence of 30 years and a visitor center. The bank is still intact and operating today where you can experience firsthand how banks operated back then. Additional information on Maggie Walker and other notable blacks can be found at the nearby Black History Museum and Cultural Center on Clay Street also in the Jackson Ward District. Founded in 1981 and open to the public in 1991, the museum is a repository for visual, oral and written records and artifacts commemorating the lives and accomplishments of blacks in Virginia. The museum holds works by renowned artists, and extensive collections of African Artifacts from different ethnic groups throughout Africa.

Continue on Richmond's black heritage trail to visit the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church organized in 1867 by legendary slave minister John Jasper, who was one of the nation's most well-known post Civil War African American preachers of that time. Serving as pastor of the church for 34 years, Jasper is remembered most for his "De Sun do Move" sermon which he delivered by invitation more than 250 times to both black and white audiences, and once before the Virginia General Assembly. Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church has a large collection of materials documenting its long history and a room dedicated to the memory of John Jasper.

Arthur_Ashe_StatueNo black heritage tour in Richmond would be complete without a visit to the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar and Capitol Square. Tredegar is the nation's first museum to interpret and represent aspects of the Civil War to include African American perspectives along with the Union and the Confederate views. When visiting Capitol Square, be sure to do the outdoor walking tour where you will find a state building named for Oliver Hill, a prominent black attorney who helped mandate some of today's laws. The Oliver Hill State Building is the first and only building on Capitol Square to be named for an African American. Capital Square is the location where the country's first elected African-American Governor took oath as well as the location where an oak tree was planted in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and dedicated by his wife in 2001. Another dedication to a notable African American in this evolving city is a statue of legendary tennis star and civil rights activist Arthur Ashe located on Monument Avenue.

As Richmond continuously recognizes the contributions of slaves and blacks to the building of America, it is definitely a city on the move in a positive direction. A visit to learn about history, politics, city government or cultural diversity would be an enlightening experience. With its various neighborhoods, shops, restaurants, cultural events and entertainment, Richmond has something for everyone. Visit www.discoverRichmond.com for more information.