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Thank You!

Thank you! The symposium was a wonderful success.

If you missed it, you can watch it on Facebook by clicking HERE

Session 1: Michael Blakey, Elvatrice Belsches, and Pamela Bingham. Doug Egerton presented by audio conferencing.


The Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project of the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality will host “Truth & Conciliation in the 400th Year: A Shockoe Bottom Public History Symposium” to be held Saturday, December 7, 2019, at the Library of Virginia, 800 E. Broad Street (23219).

With panel discussions and cultural presentations, this all-day symposium will examine the history of Africans and people of African descent in Virginia from their earliest days to the present and the vital role that Shockoe Bottom has played in that history.

This nationally significant event is co-sponsored and hosted by the Library of Virginia, and will also present resources the library has available for African-American academic topics, family history researchers, and the general public.

Our goal is to make crystal-clear the historical importance of Shockoe Bottom; its tremendous potential for education, reparations and conciliation; and the great crime that would be committed if its physical presence were lost to inappropriate development.

A centerpiece of the symposium will be presenting the community-generated proposal for a nine-acre Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park proposal as it has evolved over the past four years, highlighting the potential economic, social, and cultural benefits for the city as a whole, and particularly for today’s Black community.


For more than 20 years, Richmonders and their allies across the country had struggled to reclaim and properly memorialize the downtown area known as Shockoe Bottom that, for the three decades before the Civil War, was the epicenter of the U.S. domestic slave trade. This effort has involved education, protest, ritual, and writings, evolving from an education campaign into a demand for collective reparations while addressing institutional racism, economic disempowerment, and social repression. In this 400th year since the first captive Africans were brought to English-occupied North America, Richmonders are reasserting the right to claim and protect the physical area that was central to the development of the Black community in this country.

This ongoing struggle has had three stages: (1) the fight to force the removal of a state-owned parking lot from what today is known as Richmond’s African Burial Ground (2001-2011); (2) two campaigns to prevent a baseball stadium from being built in Shockoe Bottom (2005 - 2014); and (3) the present struggle to win City support for the community-generated proposal for a nine-acre Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park (2015-present).

The community proposal, which has won broad popular support, includes defining the boundaries of the memorial park; a phased approach to securing the properties; and planning the development of a 9-acre area that once was one of the country’s largest domestic slave markets, second only in size to that of New Orleans. More importantly, Shockoe Bottom was the wholesale district that supplied enslaved labor to all the other retail sites in the South: Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans, Vicksburg, and so many more. This trade was so extensive that today, it is estimated that the majority of African-Americans could trace some ancestry to Shockoe Bottom. Truly, this is one of the most important historical sites for people of African descent anywhere in the United States. It deserves proper memorialization.

The last four years have seen public support for the memorial park proposal grow to the point that it is included in strategic planning deliberations for the City of Richmond. The Sacred Ground Project has been involved in the small-area master planning process as a member of the mayor’s newly-formed Shockoe Alliance. Further, thanks to a $75,000 grant from the African American Cultural Heritage and Action Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, an independent two-part, equitable economic benefit and impact study of the Memorial Park proposal is now underway, with a report expected to be released in early November.



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