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Exhibit honors The Lives Of Enslaved Africans Brought To Virginia In 1619

Singing at Unbound exhibit.
"Unbound" first opened this February as part of a yearlong exhibition launched by the Richmond Slave Trail Commission. (Photo: Brianna Scott/VPM)

VPM News intern Brianna Scott reported this story.

Dozens of people gathered at Richmond’s Main Street Station Sunday afternoon to honor the lives of enslaved Africans from 1619 through the end of the Civil War.

The Unbound exhibit seeks to accurately tell the story of slavery in Virginia.

The first part highlighted the advanced cultures of West African societies, while the second installment focuses on the slave trade with photographs and artifacts.

This year marks 400 years since the first enslaved Africans were brought to Jamestown. 

Executive Director of Project Give Back To Community, Clovia Lawrence, said the exhibit is a way for black people to tell a new narrative about their history. 

“And they still created a life after being stripped of their culture. Stripped of your life, stripped of your language, stripped of your kingdom and your queendom,” Lawrence said. “And so this day is a day that we should never forget and once we understand and identify our greatness, and educate ourselves, then we will be free according to our own narrative and not the system’s narrative.”

The exhibit first opened this February as part of a yearlong exhibition launched by the Richmond Slave Trail Commission.

Local performers sang spiritual songs and dramatic readings of slave narratives at the commemoration. 

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney also spoke at the event. 

“My father always reminded me, he was like, your first name is Levar but your middle name is Marcus and you know who you’re named after, Marcus Garvey. And I was like, oh, I get it,” Stoney said. “Telling us, empowering us to know who we are and be able to be confident enough to hold our heads up no matter what space that we walk into. In order to be confident in who you are, you have to know your history.”

Unbound will be unveiled in four total chapters through February.