- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2006

RICHMOND — City and state officials are putting a monument at the site of a former slave jail — a move they hope will help heal the city’s racial history.

The slavery reconciliation plaza will feature a 13-foot bronze sculpture of two figures embracing, benches representing slave ships and a fountain meant to symbolize the water crossed by Africans long ago.

It’s the last of three similar monuments placed at international locations central to the slave trade and will anchor a four-mile path of slavery-related sites running through the former capital of the Confederacy, said the Rev. Sylvester Turner of the Richmond Slave Trail Commission.

“Whites in general have buried history out of guilt, and I think African Americans have buried their history out of shame,” Mr. Turner said. “The design is telling the story.”

The design features a one-ton statue surrounded by three rough-hewn benches, representative of wooden slave ships, designer Burt Pinnock explained.

Near the fountain, he said, a small bridge will symbolize further the link among three regions: Liverpool, England, where slave ships set sail and where tobacco and other slave-produced products were imported; Benin, Africa, where slaves were captured; and Richmond, where they landed.

The Reconciliation Triangle, an international effort, has placed similar statues in Liverpool and Benin, Mr. Turner said.

The statue in Richmond will be put on the corner of 15th and Main streets, an area where historians think Lumpkin’s Jail may once have stood. Officials broke ground last week.

By 1844, historians say a shift to less labor-intensive crops left many Virginia farmers with more slaves than needed, while the opposite was happening in states farther south.

Men such as Robert Lumpkin saw opportunity, purchasing excess slaves and housing them in “jails” before selling them to plantation owners farther south, according to historical accounts.

State Sen. Henry L. Marsh III, Richmond Democrat, state Secretary of Administration Viola Baskerville and members of the Richmond Slave Trail Commission recently attended a ceremony a few feet from the jail site — now an unassuming corner in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom neighborhood.

“This is more than an asterisk,” Mr. Marsh said. “We’re making history here today.”

Organizers will unveil the complete monument March 30 to coincide with Jamestown 2007, a series of events commemorating the 400th anniversary of America’s first permanent English settlement.

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