Draft Statement of Purpose

The feedback period for providing comments on the draft Statement of Purpose has closed. We are now reviewing all feedback received on this draft and will be publishing a final Statement of Purpose for the project soon.

This Statement of Purpose is designed to articulate the central questions, target (primary) audiences, educational objectives, and core messages, for the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site. As such, it provides the fundamental criteria for making the critical decisions regarding what content, what design, and what visitor experiences will deliver the purposes of the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail site.

Central Questions


The Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site project begins with articulating the central questions the project will partially answer with its programs and activities. Starting with questions encourages inquiry-based thinking; respecting, anticipating, and listening to the questions the community wants answered; what they would like to learn and experience. Below are the prioritized questions that emerged from the regional experts who participated in the workshops and interviews that informed this Statement of Purpose.


What happened here? From Robert Lumpkin to Mary Lumpkin and today

The authentic, tangible, and physical presence of Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site demands that its truth be told; that the authentic voices and experiences of the individuals who suffered and persevered in this place be heard and respected. Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site is both a tangible and symbolic case study. The impacts and meanings of this site can reach out and embrace all that happened in Shockoe Bottom; from Auction Houses, to Banks, Hotels, State Houses, Churches and the whole system required to justify and execute enslavement. The site may be finite but the interpretive reach emanating from this site can be broad.

While all participants agreed that the story must be true to the experience of this inhumane place, they also agreed that the persistence, courage, strength, and perseverance of enslaved people also be recognized. The unique redemptive story of Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site emerges with Mary Lumpkin, the slave wife and widow of Robert Lumpkin. Upon inheriting the site, she leased it to Rev. Colver to create the Colver Institute, a religious school for emancipated slaves. This school ultimately evolved into the Virginia Union University. Every graduate from that esteemed University is testimony to the transformation of the Devil’s Half Acre into God’s Half Acre. No other site can tell this particular story.


What is the continuing legacy of enslavement?

The question of the relevance and impact of enslavement on our daily lives today was a priority central question on the minds of all participants. Locking enslavement in some distant past, irrelevant to today’s core social issues and conditions, was seen as a disservice both to the contemporary community and to the memory of those who suffered through Richmond’s lucrative slave trade. The wealth of Richmond, Virginia, and, indeed, the United States was built on the backs of enslaved Africans and African Americans. Slavery continued in other names through Black Codes, Jim Crow laws, segregation and oppression of all sorts. From poverty, to inferior educational, housing, and economic opportunity, the African American community has persisted and continued to struggle against the legacy of enslavement. Enslavement is a core element of the American narrative and not just the African American story. The whole community must acknowledge the historic truth of Shockoe Bottom and Richmond and participate in the on-going education and healing process. This question of legacy and continuing relevance and impact was considered a high priority central question for the interpretive activities of the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site project.


How persistence overcomes horror?

The African American story is one of persistence, overcoming, resilience, and courage. While the truth of what happened at Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site, in Shockoe Bottom, and Richmond must be told, learners should leave empowered and with a positive message of achievement and respect. The fact that the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site story culminates with the foundation of Virginia Union University provides a unique opportunity to deliver this message of hope and achievement. The stories of those who persisted and thrived despite oppression and inequality is a powerful message for Shockoe Bottom to deliver to Richmond and the Nation. Participants were adamant that enslavement is not the right beginning of this story. The story of African origins and culture is important as well; how did free people become enslaved, what was that process and who participated in it? Addressing this central question and ensuring that an uplifting message inspires visitors is considered a key part of what would motivate families to come, learn, and return.

Target (Primary) Audiences


It is challenging and sometimes frustrating to identify priority target audiences. Planners do not want to leave any learners behind and all learners are welcome and desired. However, to define clear learning objectives, programs, and experiences, it is critical to know who you are designing those experiences for. Clearly, all learners will feel welcome and engaged. There will be important learning opportunities for all who come to the site and its programs and activities. The question is, who must be the priority audiences at the center of our thinking when designing this project?

While the target audiences for the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site will be refined as the content, program, and experiences for the site are developed, it is important for the development of the stories, content, and project design to have a preliminary sense of who the project is for. It is useful to have prioritized audiences in mind to guide the storytellers, scholars, and designers who will shape the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site experience. Preliminary discussions of the audiences to be served can also guide discussions of visitor experiences, learning styles, and learning objectives for the project: that is, who are we targeting and what audience knowledge, attitudes, or beliefs are intended to be changed because of the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site experience? With that in mind, the following target audiences are recommended.  


Primary Audience (must be served): Families

Families with children 11 years of age (middle school) and above is recommended as the primary audience for the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site. African American families are identified as an especially important priority audience, but the intention is for the story to be an inclusive story of historic and contemporary importance for all families.

There is a recognition that some of these family audiences are apathetic, uninformed, in denial, or in avoidance of a topic as traumatic and painful as enslavement. However, creative ways must be engaged to overcome those impediments and encourage all family audiences to understand the value and meaning of confronting and understanding this part of their shared history and its relevance to society today. Educational objectives and learning concepts must be age appropriate and sensitive to the traumatic character of the subject of enslavement and its legacy. That is, some families will visit with younger children and some images, content, or experiences may not be understood and may be overwhelming for younger family members. Design and interpretive methods will need to be developed that recognize the age sensitivity for some of the content of this project.

Finally, while authenticity and the “true story and impact” of enslavement was central to our advisers, there is also recognition that families will not want the sole focus to be on the horrors and sufferings of enslavement. The stories of resistance, overcoming, courage, resilience, and achievement need to inspire and uplift visitors and not merely create a sense of grief and painful memories. Parents will desire to provide positive outcomes and insights for their children while also wanting them to deal with the true feelings associated with the enslavement of people.


Secondary Audience (should be served): Secondary Students and Teachers

Teachers and middle school and above students4 represent an important secondary audience that should be thoughtfully developed. Designing the stories and student experiences so they are relevant to classroom curricula and standards of learning is critical to encouraging and justifying competitive field trips and outreach programs. Educational objectives and learning concepts must be age appropriate and sensitive to the traumatic character of the subject of enslavement and its legacy. Not all teachers are comfortable or competent in this subject matter. Therefore, specific resources, guides, and teacher professional development are recommended to build a school teacher’s feelings of competence and transform these professionals into engaged participants so they may develop pre-visit to post-visit experiences for their students.

The knowledge and experience of teachers should be integrated into the project planning process so that programs and experiences are pre-tested, proven effective, and teacher endorsed. Engaged, competent satisfied teachers are core decision-makers for repeat visits. Since repeat visitation is a key strategy for the continued success of any cultural project, it is prudent to consider teachers an important element of the secondary audience to cultivate and activate as part of the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site experience and program.

The importance of this story to American and African American history will require more than a one-off visit to the site. Pre-and post-visit learning materials and opportunities must be designed into the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site as a core educational principle. Changing the knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of students and teachers about the history and continuing legacy of enslavement is a critical purpose for the project.


Tertiary Audience (nice to serve): Donors and Decision-Makers

The tertiary, or nice to serve audiences, are important and multiple. For example, specifically, designed programs for special needs students would be both an innovative and worthy effort. These students are often best served by hands-on, multi-sensory programs and need out-of-school social learning experiences. These are the sweet spots for a museum-type educational institution. Experiences like the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site can offer an educational gift for these special needs students and their teachers.

Donors and policy-makers are another specialized audience to consider. Donor and government appreciation days are important for stimulating and acknowledging gifts. Nothing motivates donors, government decision-makers, and corporate leaders like seeing the impact of their support on the faces of children amidst a learning opportunity.

As the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site is a crucial project designed to stimulate further development and interpretation of Richmond’s Slave Trade history, it will be nice to reach donors, decision-makers, and other influential stakeholders who would be moved by the program and motivated to expand its reach and physical foot print. Media representatives also fall into this category as an audience who can spread the word and message of the project to a broad audience. The hands-on, interactive learning experiences provided by a Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site program makes excellent visual media and can convince a community of the educational worth of the project.

Core Messages


Core messages represent those fundamental ideas, concepts, and communication goals that must be experienced, delivered to, and remembered by every visitor. They are the core of the identity, personality, and brand of the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site experience; what it is known, valued, and respected for by its community, donors, staff and visitors. Core messages represent what the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site believes about itself, its content, and its mission.

Core “take away messages” for targeted audiences must be embedded in every aspect of the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site’s actions; from policies and practices, to architecture and programs. The core messages for the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site Project include:


African American dreams did not die at this site;

Despite the cruelty, terror, and oppression that occurred at this site, the courage, values, and character of the enslaved persisted


Tenacity, Strength, Resistance, and Perseverance;

There must be a positive message emanating from this site and the experience of enslavement. These traits characterize the enslaved and are evidenced in the achievement of African Americans;


Enslaved Africans built Richmond and its economy;

Too little attention is paid to the fact that enslaved people, through forced labor, literally built the buildings, structures, and roads, many of which we inhabit today. The industry of Slavery also made wealth possible for many and created the economic well-being of whole communities.


The legacy of slavery still impacts our daily lives;

The legacy of slavery, the systematic repression of African Americans has created the inequities visible in today’s social system. That structural racism must be part of the story of slavery.


Enslavement happened to one person at a time;

The story must be personal and human; enslavement happened to real people with names and life histories. That empathetic connection needs to be made.


Enslaved Africans and African Americans haunt the American narrative;

There is a fundamental contradiction at the core of the American narrative about liberty, justice, and equality, as natural rights5 for all people, except the enslaved. Enslaved peoples were exempted from deserving these fundamental human rights. This contradiction must be acknowledged and confronted.


With knowledge of the evils of enslavement comes a responsibility; to make a difference for equality, justice and freedom for all people;

One of the core messages of this project is action; to become involved in the on-going struggle for social justice for all people. 

Learning Objectives


With the target audiences carefully identified, it becomes possible to determine appropriate and effective learning objectives for those audiences.

As the proposal for the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site develops, each interpretive program/experience will begin with clear and measurable learning objectives. These outcome-oriented objectives will guide the development of the content and design of the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site’s programs and experiences. As a site dedicated to learning about the past and its impact on the present, learning will focus on the authentic, tangible, events that occurred at this site. The story will also be expanded beyond the physical site and into Shockoe Bottom using new learning technologies, as well as, the Richmond Slave Trail and other local institutions. Through these means the historical context for what happened on this site will be provided. While audiences will need to confront the emotional and difficult reality of enslavement and its impact on individuals and families like themselves, they will also have to understand the courage, resilience, resistance, overcoming, and strength the enslaved embodied.

Learning outcomes will recognize the classroom curricular needs of regional students and teachers so that experiences align with learning standards for middle and secondary schools in Virginia. The challenge is to create learning experiences that provide memorable and engaging learning and to achieve serious educational objectives. Below are sample educational objectives that relate to middle and secondary school curriculum, but also achieve the learning expectations of our family audiences.

After experiencing the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site project, a visitor will be able to…:

  • Describe three key functions of the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site;
  • Explain the process of becoming an enslaved African American;
  • Explain why we use the term enslaved African American rather than slave;
  • Describe individual victims of this site and their life stories;
  • Explain who in Richmond and beyond was involved in the enslavement system and how they benefited from this evil system;
  • Identify 4 ways enslavement affects this community to this day;
  • Identify the economic impact of enslavement on Richmond and how that wealth became the foundation of Richmond today;
  • Describe how and why the Richmond Slave Markets remained hidden;
  • Provide 4 examples of the impacts and realities of enslavement that continue to be manifested in American society today;
  • Describe the Mary Lumpkin’s story and other stories of courage, resistance, resilience, and overcoming;

4 Critical history is distinct from civics. The latter questions the actions, motives, and impacts of Americans and American social institutions. Civics is designed to encourage pride, loyalty, and civic duty focusing on the positive accomplishments of Americans and American social institutions. Critical history does not significantly enter the curriculum until Middle School. A difficult story, like enslavement and its consequences on African American identity, experience, and communities is not critically covered until later elementary grades. The Virginia History curriculum does mention slavery, especially in the local history context in fourth grade, but not with the critical edge it receives in later grades.

5 “Natural rights” endowed by the creator (not the king, pope, or other earthly authority) were a concept of the enlightenment thinking embraced by the Founding Fathers. These “natural rights” were considered fundamental to a free people and a democracy. All the Founding Fathers found difficulty in squaring their beliefs in “natural rights” and their holding of slaves. This unresolved contradiction and conflict over slavery culminated in the Civil War.