First Community Consultation Meeting Summary of Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site Concept Design Project


On March 7, 2017, almost 200 people filled the meeting room at the Perkins Living and Learning Center at Virginia Union University. The size and character of this crowd was evidence of the breadth of interest in this project from groups with a vested interest and those who were new to the process. Almost all the participants responded they were from Richmond with 54% reporting they had not participated in any previous community activities associated with the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site Project. This project is designed to be shaped by community input, with five meetings planned throughout Concept Design. Responsiveness to points made at community meetings is important to the success of the project. Major points raised at each meeting will be addressed before the next subsequent community meeting.

Four key points heard from participants that responded/expressed their views:

  1. Change the name: The current name memorializes the cruel slave trader Robert Lumpkin and participants expressed offense to both the name Lumpkin and the word Jail used in the title of the project.
  2. Don’t just focus on Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site: Focusing solely on Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site is restrictive both physically and interpretively. Participants expressed that while the case study of Lumpkin’s Slave Jail story is important, it does not deliver the kind of messages of hope, resilience, resistance, courage, and success that will attract and inspire learners of all ages and provide a reason to return to the site again and again. Individuals stated that it is important to deliver the message of shame and horror and to accurately present the emotional and physical actuality of slavery, but it is equally important to honor, remember, and acknowledge those who suffered, survived, and overcame. That larger story of the slave trade in Richmond and all those who profited from it and how it continues to impact lives today requires a larger focus than just the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site.
  3. Need for a preservation and interpretation plan: Several participants expressed the desire for a cohesive plan for the interpretation and preservation of the history and sites related to the slave trade in Richmond beyond Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site and Shockoe Bottom. Without this preservation plan, they fear that the story will remain buried, the sites unrecognized and the history untold and eventually forgotten. The community speakers want to see a comprehensive plan for the interpretation and preservation of the entire story of enslavement in Richmond and not just the history of Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site.
  4. The right people and perspectives: What stories are told, how they are told, and who tells them was on the mind of many participants worried that the right people and perspectives be involved to tell the complete story. Concern was expressed that the team needs to be more diverse and should work with regional content resources and professionals involved in preserving and interpreting this story.