African American News and Genealogy

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Parking lot giving up clues to Richmond's slave-era history

It's believed people were held captive at the site before being sold to toil in the Deep South. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS April 5, 2006 RICHMOND -- Archaeologists are digging up a parking lot believed to have been the site of a slave holding pen whose artifacts could expose new facets of Richmond's slave past.Researchers with the James River Institute for Archaeology will spend this week digging into a 90-by-90-foot patch of land behind the restored Main Street train station in Shockoe Bottom, one of the oldest sections of this former capital of the Confederacy.The dig beneath an elevated section of Interstate 95 is seeking remnants of Lumpkin's Jail, named after a slave trader. The building later became a school for freed blacks.Tuesday, Ziploc bags full of iron pieces, broken bottles and pottery jags lined the sides of the pits. Below, workers tussled with gravel, sewage pipes and old bricks.The dig, if successful, could lead to a full-scale excavation of the area, said senior researcher Matt Laird. Success, he explained, is measured by the discovery of either the 19th-century jail's building foundation or a layer of soil from that era - both likely rich in the type of pottery, animal bones and household goods archaeologists treasure.Such items would be turned over to the city for possible inclusion in a museum, he said.The initial dig is funded by the city and grants orchestrated by the Richmond Slave Trail Commission, said its chairwoman Delores McQuinn."This is the capital of the Confederacy," she said. "(But) it's more sides to the history of the city."We want this story to be told."That story starts in 1844, with Robert Lumpkin, a businessman who trafficked in slaves, and during an agricultural shift in Virginia to crops that required few field hands but the beginning of the cotton boom in the Deep South."Many people (in Virginia) found themselves with more slaves than they had a need for," Laird said. "In the deep South, the opposite was happening."Men like Lumpkin bought excess Virginia slaves and held them in "jails" until they could be sold down South. Full Story:,0,5572666.story?coll=dp-news-local-final


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