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Richmond City Council Funds Design Process for Slavery Museum

Aerial view of the Devil's Half Acre site.
Aerial view of the former Lumpkin's Slave Jail in Shockoe Bottom. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons CC-4.0)

The City of Richmond is one step closer to creating a museum and campus in Shockoe Bottom to memorialize its history as a slave-trading center.

Monday night, Richmond City Council approved a transfer of nearly $2 million in tax delinquent property sales to fund the planning and design of the campus. 

Mayor Levar Stoney first announced the multi-million dollar plan in July after a report was presented by the Shockoe Alliance group. Stoney estimated the museum and the park-like campus surrounding it will cost the city between $20 and $50 million. 

At a July press conference, Stoney said the city will put the narratives of enslaved Africans at the center of the project.

“A heritage and interpretive center or museum will give us the opportunity to create a space that serves as a site of conscious memorialization reflection, education and atonement,” he said.

In addition to planning and design, the money approved by Richmond City Council on Monday can be used by the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities to acquire the necessary land.

 A map accompanying the ordinance shows the campus will center on the area around Main Street Station and the 17th Street Farmers’ Market. Most of the land, including the former site of the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail, is already owned by the city. Buildings currently housing restaurants around the 17th Street Market and parking lots north of the market are included in the campus footprint, but not currently owned by the city. 

City officials said the project will capitalize on the use of green space and utilize existing city structures to build the educational center.