Statement of Purpose for the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site

Executive Summary


It is important to acknowledge at the outset that there is no truly national museum of slavery that explores the far-reaching economic, social, and historical impacts of this system of human trafficking and bondage.    Slavery and its impact is deeply embedded in the core psyche and identity of America and continues to shape social relationships, policy, politics, and opportunities to this day.  Despite the centrality of this story and theme to American History, no institution has coalesced to tell that critical story of enslavement in its entirety.  That absence is keenly felt and expressed in many of the responses we have heard from the community and the experts who have come together to discuss the purpose of the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site/Devil’s Half Acre project.  These community and specialty voices have clearly expressed the need to tell the authentic story of enslavement from 1619 to the present.  Clearly, the scope of the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site/Devil’s Half Acre project cannot be asked to carry the weight of that whole story, though it certainly needs to be told.  The Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site/Devil’s Half Acre project needs to focus its purpose on what it can do best and focus on the stories that its particular history demands to be told.  This does not mean that it cannot aspire to be a hub in a learning network that interprets the broad impact of slavery.  This does not mean that it cannot be part of a consortia of regional and national institutions that keep this whole story of enslavement and it legacy alive and relevant to today’s learners.  This does not mean it cannot be a seed project encouraging Richmond to preserve, protect, and present this painful heritage and story well beyond the confines of the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail site.  This does mean that the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site/Devil’s Half Acre project cannot do this alone and tell the entire story of enslavement and its far-reaching consequences and legacy without the active cooperation of a community of institutions and leaders.  For that reason, this Statement of Purpose reflects what the community and experts feel this particular project can and must do, acknowledging that there is far more that will remain to be done.

First, the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site/Devil’s Half Acre must complement the existing Slave Trail Program, adding to the expanding history of the Richmond Slave Trade; a history that has been literally buried for over 150 years  

SmithGroupJJR, a Washington-based architectural firm with deep experience with many cultural institutions, has assembled the team to lead the project that will reveal this hidden history. The current scope of work specifies creating a proposal for the interpretation of the actual Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site, known also as the Devil’s Half Acre; one element of the extensive economic system that operated the slave trade in Richmond and one site along the existing Richmond Slave Trail.

Being located in this single physical site does not impede the breadth of the potential interpretive program for the project. The physical site can be a hub in a distributed learning network telling the whole story of the Richmond Slave Trade. By utilizing new learning and communications technologies, the buried sites that constitute this cruel system that supported a national economic trade in human beings will be brought to light. The success of this interpretive outreach project is intended to act as an additional catalyst for further revealing of the Slave Trade story in Richmond and beyond.

SmithGroupJJR, working with the City of Richmond and the Slave Trail Commission, is committed to utilizing a collaborative process to create a community-centered interpretive proposal for the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site.   The first kick-off Community Consultation Meeting was conducted on March 7th, 2017 at Virginia Union University.

Several participants in the first Community Consultation Meeting voiced support for a larger vision and footprint for the project with an interpretive reach moving beyond the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site and telling the wider story of Richmond’s role in the enslavement of African-Americans. The community also affirmed that the legacy of enslavement continues to this day and that this unbroken chain of injustice and repression of the African American community must be acknowledged; that is, enslavement should not be characterized as a painful memory locked in the past, but rather as a relevant topic for contemporary learning, understanding, empathy and healing. 

The next activity in the concept development process was a Statement of Purpose Workshop, conducted on April 8, 2017. A diverse group of scholars, educators, artists, audience advocates, clergy, and academic leaders, both nationally and locally recognized, came together to discuss the priority audiences, the central questions, learning objectives, and core messages that must be delivered by this project These three items are essential to the development of a Statement of Purpose, the foundational document on which all other project work is based and a key deliverable for the SmithGroupJJR team.

Subsequently, on May 4 and 5, 2017 face-to-face interviews of local stake holders were conducted in Richmond to further deepen the understanding of the community’s perspectives and desires for the project. From May 15- June 14, phone interviews solicited further viewpoints from local leaders in the cultural and educational communities. This diverse community input has informed the formulation of this proposed Statement of Purpose for the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site Project. This document will now be taken back to the community for its input and guidance.

From the input of the Statement of Purpose Workshop and subsequent meetings and interviews with key stakeholders, the following draft Statement of Purpose was developed with 4 key elements:

  1. Central Questions:  What are the most important questions this project needs to address
  2. Target (Primary Audiences): Of all the audiences that will be served by the project and its programs, what audiences must be served; what audiences should be served; and what audiences would it be nice to serve?
  3. Core Messages:  What key take away messages must be delivered to visitors to the site and its programs?
  4. Learning Objectives:  What feelings, beliefs, attitudes or knowledge does the project aspire to change; how will learners be different after experiencing the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site and Project?

Following is a summary of the recommendations that emerged for each of these 4 elements.

  1. Central Questions:
    1. What happened here? From Robert Lumpkin to Mary Lumpkin
      The authentic, tangible, physical presence of the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail 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.
    2. 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.  Social, economic, and historical issues from Black Codes to segregation (separate but not equal), economic oppression, inadequate education and incarceration were all mentioned as important legacy stories to pursue.  How does persistence overcome horror?

      The African-American story is one of persistence, overcoming, resilience, resistance, and courage. While the truth of what happened at Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site, in Shockoe Bottom, and in Richmond must be told, learners should leave empowered and with a positive message of achievement and respect.
  2. Target (Primary) Audiences:

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

    2. Secondary Students and Teachers
      Teachers and middle school and above students 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.

    3. Donors and Decision-Makers
      As the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site is a project designed to stimulate further development and interpretation of Richmond’s Slave Trade history, it will be important 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 can spread the word and message of the project to a broader audience.

  3. Core Messages
    Core messages represent those fundamental ideas, concepts, and communication goals that must be experienced, delivered to, and remembered by every visitor.  Core messages represent what the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site believes about itself, its content, and its mission.

    The core messages for the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site Project include:

    • African-American dreams did not die at this site;

    • Tenacity, Strength, Resistance, and Perseverance;

    • Enslaved Africans built Richmond and its economy;

    • The legacy of slavery still impacts our daily lives;

    • Enslavement happened to one person at a time;

    • Enslaved Africans challenge the American narrative of freedom and equality for all;

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

  4. Learning Objectives
    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. 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.

    After experiencing the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site project visitors 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 experiences on 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 economic system;

    • Identify 4 ways the legacy of 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;


For more detailed discussions of these 4 elements of the Statement of Purpose see the complete report.