Second Community Consultation Meeting Summary of Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site / Devil’s Half Acre Concept Design Project – Statement of Purpose Meeting



On July 12, 2017, 94 people attended the second Community Consultation Meeting for the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail / Devil’s Half Acre project meeting at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center.  The attendees to this meeting included almost 50% new members who had not participated in any previous activities associated with the project. 

The purpose of the meeting was to invite community input on the first deliverable of the Concept Design Phase of the project – the Statement of Purpose, or SOP, as well as the City of Richmond and SmithGroupJJR’s response to key issues raised at the Community Meeting #1 (March 7, 2017), to receive community input on the target audiences, core messages, and central questions raised in the Statement of Purpose Workshop and Interviews as contained in the first draft of the Statement of Purpose, and to invite community input on the project in general and its progress.

Pursuant to the request at the first meeting that the project name should be changed, the project team decided to follow the lead of the City Council and use the project title Lumpkin’s Slave Jail / Devil’s Half Acre at least until a final concept and path forward to develop the project further has been determined. It was confirmed that the on-going, on-line process to seek community input regarding the project name would continue in the project web site and that the final decision would be made at the end of this phase of the project once the entity had been defined and program of the structure/pavilion/interpretive site/museum/center had been drafted.

The process of the project’s first phase was outlined for the audience including the three parts: Statement of Purpose, Visitor Experience, and Concept Design.  Each deliverable and part has an associated community meeting for the project team to garner additional feedback from the public. 

The consultant team was also introduced so that the audience could meet each of them individually.  Future meetings will have additional team members.  Consultant team members that were present for the Community meeting were:

  • Hal Davis, SmithGroup JJR
  • Jame Anderson, SmithGroup JJR
  • Monteil Crawley, SmithGroup JJR
  • Christa Montgomery, SmithGroup JJR
  • Robert Sullivan, Chora
  • Heather Rostker, Chora
  • Robert Easter, KEi Architects
  • Monica Flippen, KEi Architects
  • Lynden Garland, KEi Architects
  • Alcione Amos, Independent Curator
  • Al Dobbins, Gray & Pape
  • Chris Polglase, Gray & Pape
  • Rod Vera, Gallagher & Associates

The City of Richmond then presented a portion of the program. Rev. Tee Turner, from the Richmond Slave Trail Commission detailed the work that the STC has done to date.  Jeannie Welliver, project manager from the Department of Economic Development reminded the audience that the original scope of the project for the SGJJR team remains unchanged at this time. However, the City of Richmond understood from the first Community Meeting that there was considerable concern about how the City intended to protect, preserve, and interpret the other historic sites in the Shockoe Bottom, including the African Burial Grounds.

Lee Downey, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Planning and Economic Development announced the City’s intention to commission a Small Area Study for Shockoe Bottom.  This study would address the City’s options for preserving and protecting the historic sites of Shockoe Bottom along with a plan for economic and transportation development of Shockoe Bottom with an emphasis on those areas surrounding the Main Street Station. This Small Area Study would inform the City-wide Master plan scheduled to be completed, with community input, over the next three years.

Following the City’s presentation, there was a question and answer period.  The following items were brought forward by the attendees of the meeting:

  • Concern at the lack of City response to the 9-acre park proposed for Shockoe Bottom by the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality Activist Group in partnership with the National Trust, Preservation Virginia, and the UMass Amherst Center for Design Engagement.
  • Concern that the privately-owned parcels of land around the Main Street Station would be sold for development projects that could damage the historical slave trade sites buried beneath these parcels.
  • Participants renewed their concern that the scope of the project was too narrow and should reach beyond the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail site to preserve and protect other historic sites in the Shockoe Bottom.

Following the comments by citizens, the City restated its commitment to conduct a Small Area Study that would address those concerns, but also restated that current funding could only be used to develop the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail property.

Statement of Purpose

The second half of the meeting focused on the key items within the Statement of Purpose Document.  While the physical scope of the project is limited to the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail site, the interpretive scope could reach beyond that space to interpret the entire Slave Trade story of the Shockoe Bottom, Richmond, and beyond. As a national crime, the Richmond slave trade was a critical story for American History and must be told using the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail / Devil’s Half Acre site as a hub in a learning network that takes advantage of new learning and communication technologies to broadcast this message and story well beyond the physical site of the Devil’s Half Acre.

The reasons for and the definition of a SOP document was provided for the audience.  The workshop that informed the draft as presented was described for the audience as were the individual and group conversations that the consultant team held. 

Three specific elements of the Statement of Purpose first draft were opened for community review and input: target audiences, core messages, and central questions. Each of these elements was presented to the community participants who then prioritized and voted on the content of each element via electronic voting technology.

The following samples illustrate how the Community Meeting participants ranked the elements of the draft Statement of Purpose with the highest percentage shown representing the majority opinion:

Central Questions (Group 1)

What actually happened at this site? From Robert Lumpkin to Mary Lumpkin
What is the continuing legacy of enslavement? How does it continue to affect us today?
How does courage and persistence overcome horror?

Central Questions (Group 2)

How do we convey this site as part of the American narrative and not just an African American narrative?
Who benefited and still benefits from this slave trade?
Why has this site been buried for over 150 years?
How do we tell the whole truth? Whose truth are we talking about and who should tell it?

Target Audiences  (Group 1)

Families, especially African American families
Middle/High school students and teachers
Donors and decision-makers

Target Audiences  (Group 2)

Regional and national tourists
Historians, researchers, scholars, policy makers, and politicians
Apathetic and indifferent citizens/naysayers and avoiders

Core Messages (Group 1)

African American dreams did not die at this site
Tenacity, strength, and perseverance overcame enslavement
Enslaved Africans built Richmond and its economy
The legacy of slavery still impacts our daily lives

Core Messages  (Group 2)

Enslavement happened to one person at a time
Slavery was an evil system
With knowledge of the evils of enslavement comes responsibility; to make a difference for equality, justice and freedom for all people

Following the exercises, the floor was re-opened for questions.  The following is a brief summary of those topics brought forward by members of the community:

Desire for the City to expand the scope and take positive action to demonstrate their commitment to the preservation, protection, and interpretation of the Slave Trade sites in Shockoe Bottom.

Strong statements regarding the inequality of opportunity and suppression of Black themes and history.

Strong opinion that the content of the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail / Devil’s Half Acre project include the continuing legacy and impact of slavery on Richmond today. Enslavement was the foundation of the economy of Richmond and the nation and that truth needs to be revealed and acknowledged.

A call for a more “blue sky” approach to the project instead of the limitations currently imposed upon it.

A desire for young people to be invited into the project so that their voice can be heard and they can also embrace their own history and heritage.

The call for “more action, and fewer words” included the suggestion that the private property with historic sites on it should be seized by the City.

A repeated call for the City to embrace the 9-acre park and cease all involvement with smaller scaled proposals like the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail / Devil’s Half Acre project.

Discussion regarding how to reveal the cruelty and horror of slavery while also providing stories of persistence, overcoming, resistance, and resilience. There was a general feeling that the audience, even young children, were ready and able to deal with the reality and truth about the evil and painful quality of enslavement, and that the authentic truth and story needed to be told. Incorporating evaluation into the process to ensure that messages and desired outcomes were being achieved was suggested.

The need for more public notice of future events and a feeling that the event was poorly advertised and conflicted with another related event that may have repressed attendance.

The meeting ended at 8:00 pm.