Whether a walk through history is taken by educators, students, family members, faith-based groups, colleagues, business leaders or government officials, acknowledging how dominant narratives of history can suppress the sacred stories of marginalized communities can be a powerful experience. This public and conscious recognition can provide resounding, honest and creative energies to heal broken relationships and revolutionize systems of inequality into structures of wellbeing and inclusive power.
The initial history walk took place in 1993 as a part of the Unity Walk conference. For the first time, white, Black and indigenous communities came together publicly in Richmond to mark critical sites connected to the exploitative capitalist economies of the trade of enslaved Africans. These include sites within the heart of Richmond’s economic district such as the Manchester Docks where Africans disembarked from commerce ships on the James River and Devil’s Half Acre, the name given by enslaved persons for Lumpkin’s Jail, cells of imprisonment where African Americans were tortured, held hostage, torn apart from their families and sold like property “down the river”. Excavation of Devil's Half Acre, located near the sacred African burial grounds, began in 2008.
The walk is led by African American and white American historians and facilitators and includes experiences from both racial communities. A demonstration in collective histories and shared storytelling, the walk also acknowledges the loss of life endured by families memorializing Confederate soldiers and sailors who died during the Civil War. This perspective is important to engage to deepen understanding and connection about how power constructs dominant history and what gets remembered, ritualized and made sacred. The final stop of the walk concludes at the Reconciliation Statue where walkers are encouraged to think through the legacies of inequity we have inherited and practical ways to create personal and social transformation, racially just, healthy and inclusive communities. On the base of the Reconciliation Statues are inscribed these evocative words: “Acknowledge the past, embrace the present, shape a future of reconciliation and justice.”
Download more details on the Richmond's Historic Slave Trail.