Richmond Slave Trail
"A frank and honest effort to face up to the darkest side of our past, to understand the ways in which social evils evolve, should in no way lead to cynicism and despair, or to a repudiation of our heritage. The development of maturity means a capacity to deal with truth."
David Brion Davis, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus, Yale University, and pre-eminent scholar of slavery and abolition.
Until this point on the trail, the accounts cited and stories told have focused on the brutal experiences of enslaved Africans exported as human cargo to foreign lands. Later accounts recite the noble courage and steely resilience of enslaved Africans in the United States who fought for their freedom in such episodes as the Creole Revolt. Features still visible in the city's landscape recall memories of misery and coercion, but also serve as reminders of strength and devotion. The stories told along the trail as it follows the south and north sides of the river reveal the darkest shadows and the noblest aspirations of the human spirit.
Ahead, various markers along the trail describe the lives of enslaved Africans upon crossing the James River. Beyond the northern banks of the James the community of free and enslaved black people contributed considerable strength to building the capital city through its days of prosperity and peril. Passing sites once occupied by dingy auction houses, the trail recounts the experiences of enslaved men and women who were bought, sold, beaten, maimed and often permanently separated from their loved ones. As the Richmond Slave Trail winds its way through Shockoe Bottom, it follows a path of oppression and revolution, of mournful sorrow and exultant song. A path of resilience. Of strength. Of conviction. The trail follows the path of a heritage that has been challenged and broken by the chains of supreme degradation and yet still found inspiration within itself.
The Reconciliation Statue, an international commemoration of one of the many Transatlantic routes in the Triangular Trade of Enslaved Africans, stands in recognition of Virginia's role in the unimaginable plight of Africans who were sold into lifelong bondage. Nearby, Robert Lumpkin's infamous slave trading jail — the Devil's Half Acre — has been excavated and studied by archaeologists so that people can learn about the often lucrative and dangerous domestic slave trade.
Please, walk upon this trail. Continue this journey and accept the history revealed, for it is our history. May every step lead us all to a brighter future.
About the Trail
Designed as a walking path, the Richmond Slave Trail chronicles the history of the trade in enslaved Africans from their homeland to Virginia until 1778, and away from Virginia, especially Richmond, to other locations in the Americas until 1865. The trail begins at the Manchester Docks, which, alongside Rocketts Landing on the north side of the river, operated as a major port in the massive downriver slave trade, making Richmond the largest source of enslaved blacks on the east coast of America from 1830 to 1860. While many of the slaves were shipped on to New Orleans and to other Deep South ports, the trail follows the footsteps of those who remained here and crossed the James River, often chained together in a coffle. Once reaching the northern riverbank, the trail then follows a route through the slave markets and auction houses of Richmond, beside the Reconciliation Statue commemorating the international triangular slave trade and on to the site of the notorious Lumpkin's Slave Jail and leading on to Richmond's African Burial Ground, once called the Burial Ground for Negroes, and the First African Baptist Church, a center of African American life in pre-Civil War Richmond. - Richmond Slave Trail Commission - 2011 -Title image: "After the Sale: Slaves Going South", 1853, Painted from live by Eyre Crowe, courtesy the Chicago History Museum