The Shockoe Project

Uncovering the story of enslavement on a site of historic significance.

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IMAGE: Richmond from Church Hill, April 1865

The Shockoe Project will create a comprehensive, experiential destination that places Richmond at the center of the American story by recognizing the history of enslaved and free Africans and people of African descent. Anticipated components of The Shockoe Project include the Shockoe Institute, National Slavery Museum, Lumpkin’s Slave Jail, Mary Lumpkin Event Lawn, The African Burial Ground, National Memorial, as well as The Winfree Cottage, The Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground and the Trail of the Enslaved. The project is currently in the final planning stages. 

About Shockoe:

The site that shapes the narrative.

Over several decades, extensive research and archaeological explorations have uncovered the story of Shockoe and its role as a key hub of the US American domestic slave industry.

Shockoe is located in what was the territory of the Powhatan Confederation for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans. The name Shockoe is believed to be derived from the Algonquian word Shacquohocan, roughly translated as “made of stone.”

Considered the birthplace of European-claimed Richmond, Shockoe was explored in 1607 by Christopher Newport and John Smith, who later established an English settlement nearby. In the centuries that followed, Shockoe served as Richmond’s center for commerce, manufacturing and the slave-trade with auction houses, offices, jails for the enslaved, and residences of the most prominent traders scattered throughout. From the 1830s to the end of the Civil War, this section of Richmond served as the second largest domestic slave trade center in the country, second only to New Orleans.

The Shockoe Project’s mission is to recognize and preserve the historical significance of the spaces that tell the story of what happened here. The following maps illustrate the evolution of Shockoe over the centuries.

  • 1809/1810 plan of the City of Richmond by Richard Young
  • The 1877 Beers Map, taken from Frederick W. Beers’ Illustrated Atlas of the City of Richmond.
  • The 1886 Sanborn Map, from the repository of Sanborn Fire Insurance maps held by the Library of Congress.
  • A 2022 Google map of the area noting the locations of the African Burial Ground, Lumpkin’s Jail, The Trail of the enslaved, and the Slave Auction Houses.

Map: 1877 Beers Map

IT HAPPENED HERE: A LOOK AT THE HISTORY AND FUTURE OF THIS HISTORIC SITE.

See renderings of what’s to come with The Shockoe Project.

2024 Master Plan Document

The Challenge: Developing a Site in a Floodplain/Floodway.

This short animation presents the challenges that must be considered when building within a floodplain/floodway.

The Evolution of The Shockoe Project.

Below is a list of the more recent and relevant plans, studies and concepts for Shockoe.

  • Shockoe Bottom Land Use and Development Strategy (2000)
  • Richmond Riverfront Plan (2012)
  • Pulse Corridor Plan (2017)
  • Richmond 300: A Guide for Growth (2020)
  • A 10 Point Plan for Re-Investment in Shockoe Bottom (2005, Shockoe Bottom Business and Property Owners)
  • A Community Proposal for the Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park (2017, Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project)
  • Shockoe Bottom Memorialization Community and Economic Impacts (2019, VCU Center for Urban and Regional Analysis)
  • Shockoe Bottom Equitable Economic Development Resource Guide (2019, Ebony Walden Consulting)
  • Archaeological Assessment of the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site (2006)
  • Archaeological Data Recovery Investigation of the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site (2010)
  • Shockoe Economic Revitalization Strategy (2011)
  • Cultural Context and Thematic Study/Dutton Report (2014)
  • Richmond Speaks (2016, Lord Cultural Resources)
  • SmithGroup Lumpkin’s Jail/Devil’s Half Acre Site Plan (2018)
  • DESMAN Parking Study for Richmond 300 (2018-2019)
  • Greeley and Hansen Floodplain Impact Study: Hydrology & Hydraulics (H&H) Modeling Report (2022)

The Shockoe Project Timeline.

The Shockoe Project launched in June 2022 with the initiation of a hydrology and hydraulics study of the Shockoe floodplain/floodway-impacted area. The following outlines milestones both achieved and projected. This timeline will be updated as the project evolves. Please note that there will be opportunities for public engagement throughout the project.

IMAGE: Aerial view of The Shockoe Project Study Area, 2023

2006

Preliminary archaeological investigation of the Lumpkin’s Jail site

2008

Archaeological data recovery investigation at Lumpkin’s Jail site

2017

Cultural context and thematic study

2018-2019

Investigations tied to the renovation of Main Street Station and the 17th Street Market Plaza, and 2008, 2009 and 2012 analytical studies of the African Burial Ground to determine its location

2022

Hydrology and hydraulics study of Shockoe floodplain/floodway

2023

Martin Archaeology Preliminary GIS Study of the African Burial Ground

2024

Master Plan unveiled

Join the conversation:
Frequently asked questions.

If you have a question that isn’t addressed here, please let us know. The Shockoe Project exists to further this community – and we need community involvement to make it a success.

The Shockoe Project is an effort to develop a comprehensive plan for, and interpretation of, the story of Shockoe’s role in generations of enslaved and free Africans who were trapped in the slave trade before the end of the Civil War. Led by the City of Richmond Department of Public Works’ Special Capital Projects Group, in conjunction with the Planning and Economic Development Portfolio, the project’s goal is to develop a dedicated site to tell this largely untold story. The effort involves multiple city agencies and a multi-disciplined professional services team that includes Baskervill, which is a creative architectural, interior design and engineering firm.

The project is situated in the Shockoe Valley of Richmond, Virginia, from the foot of Church Hill on the east, to the base of Shockoe Hill on the west. The planning area is along both sides of Broad Street, adjacent to Interstate 95 at the eastern edge of downtown Richmond.

The Shockoe Project will focus on Richmond’s past as a major hub of the United States’ internal slave trade. The trade in captive African people, which began in Virginia in 1619, lasted 246 years. While Virginia banned the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1778, it took an act of Congress in 1808 to end it for the nation and change the business of slavery from international to domestic. During the height of Richmond’s role in the domestic trade, from the 1830s through 1865, hundreds of thousands of enslaved men, women and children passed through the city for sale to deep South buyers. 

The National Slavery Museum. As the nation’s only museum dedicated specifically to slavery in the United States, The National Slavery Museum will serve as the anchor point for a global site of conscience. Rising high into the air above the sacred ground of the African Burial Ground and Memorial, the museum will house permanent, rotating, and interactive exhibitions; spaces for academic and genealogical research; spaces for reflection and contemplation; resource libraries; and spaces to record oral histories. In addition, an orientation theatre, conference rooms and multipurpose rooms will serve as spaces of community outreach and connection. Wrapped in a textured façade that permeates the site, the entire building stands as a bold testament to the lives of the ancestors.

 

The African Burial Ground. Its origins are uncertain, but this site may have been in use as early as the 1750s or not until 1799, when the city purchased an irregular lot on the eastern slope of Shockoe Hill that descended to Shockoe Creek. This was the first location to be designated by the city for the burial of Richmond’s free and enslaved residents of African ancestry. The burial ground remained in use until the first decades of the 19th century, when there was an outcry from Richmond’s Black citizens over the deplorable condition of the site. The city established a new burial ground on its northern boundary in 1816 – one acre for free people of color and one acre for “Negroes”. The African Burial Ground is the final resting place of an unknown number of free and enslaved people, some of whom were executed at the nearby gallows. The burial ground was rediscovered in the 1990s and work was begun to recognize and properly commemorate the site. Unfortunately, recent research has shown that the historic burial ground is under Interstate 95, but this does not diminish the importance of this property as a memorial site.

 

The Lumpkin’s Slave Jail and Mary Lumpkin Event Lawn. The property now identified as Lumpkin’s Jail was acquired in 1830 by Bacon Tait, one of Richmond’s most prominent slave traders. In 1833, Tait sold the property to fellow dealer L.A. Collier. In 1844, Collier sold the property, which included a dwelling, a hotel, a separate kitchen, and the jail, to Robert Lumpkin. Lumpkin operated a notorious jail on this site until 1865. Following Emancipation and Lumpkin’s death in 1866, his widow, an enslaved woman named Mary, operated a hotel at this location. In 1867, the property was leased to the Colver Institute for use as a seminary to train freedmen to become preachers. With this act, the jail was no longer the “Devil’s Half Acre,” but “God’s half-acre.” Lumpkin’s was one of at least six jails or slave pens in Shockoe, but is the only one for which substantial archaeological evidence has been revealed.

 

The Slave Auction sites. The sale of enslaved Blacks took place in a variety of locations across the City of Richmond – the basements of the posh hotels, houses of entertainment, auction and brokerage houses, traders offices and jails. During the height of the domestic slave trade in Richmond, 1830-1865, there were as many as 50 to 60 firms and individuals engaged in the hiring and selling of human beings. Richmond was second only to New Orleans in the number of people traded, which is not surprising because New Orleans was the primary destination for persons sold from Richmond. The trade in humans was the highest grossing industry in the city, underpinning Richmond’s economic stability and amassing white wealth.

 

Winfree Cottage. This two-room house is similar in form to the dwellings occupied by enslaved people in which two families commonly lived in a single cottage. The cottage was purchased in 1866 for a formerly enslaved woman, Emily Winfree, by her owner, David Winfree. Emily raised her seven children, four and possibly five of whom were fathered by David Winfree, in this tiny cottage. Originally located in the Town of Manchester, Winfree Cottage was moved across the James River to Shockoe to save it from demolition. As part of The Shockoe Project, the cottage will be moved back to Manchester, where it can tell the story of the thousands of enslaved women who bore children fathered by their owners and their tenacity to survive following Emancipation.

 

The Trail of the Enslaved. This existing 2.5-mile path interprets the journey of enslaved people from the Middle Passage to the domestic slave trade. The Trail of the Enslaved narrates this journey through interpretive panels beginning at the docks of Manchester to the jails and auction sites in Shockoe. Created in 1999, the trail includes markers, memorials and interpretive displays that convey the life experiences of the enslaved people who were sold and moved through Richmond and the United States. Among the memorials on the trail is the Reconciliation Statue, a 15-foot bronze statue unveiled in 2007 as part of a reconciliation effort by the United States and two other nations that played prominent roles in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Similar statues are on display in Liverpool, England, and Cotonou, African Republic of Benin.

 

The Shockoe Institute at Main Street Station. The Institute will be located on the lower level of the train shed at Main Street Station. It will serve as a gateway to the campus by providing visitors with the opportunity to learn about Shockoe’s evolution – from home to Indigenous tribes prior to 1607, to the epicenter of the domestic slave trade in the antebellum period, through Reconstruction and into the modern era.

Richmond served as a major hub of the American slave trade. Significant discoveries have recently exposed this history, which has been hidden for too long. These discoveries included extensive research and archaeological excavation such as research locating the site of the African Burial Ground, the archaeological remains of the Lumpkin’s Jail slave trading compound, the historical locations of auction houses, slave jails and pens, and traders’ offices. The Shockoe Project intends to commemorate these historically meaningful sites in a unified way as a perpetual remembrance of this significant era of American history, and to present a more complete version of the story of enslaved and free Africans in this city.

The Shockoe Project will include indoor and outdoor programmed experiences, innovative works of public art, as well as an interpretation of the Lumpkin’s Jail/Devil’s Half Acre site and the Winfree Cottage, while incorporating the existing Richmond Slave Trail. Combined, the features and sites of the Shockoe Project will create an experience to commemorate and memorialize the history of free and enslaved Africans through stories of struggle, steadfastness, survival, and success.

The project milestones include:

  • February 2024: First Design Phases Start
  • Fall 2024: First Construction Phase Starts
  • Summer 2025: Shockoe Institute opens
  • 2037: Project completion
The City’s goal is to complete the project in time for Richmond’s 300th birthday in 2037.  See the Master Plan document for more information.
 

This project is supported by: 

  • $25 million from the City of Richmond
  • $13 million from the Commonwealth of Virginia
  • $11 million from the Mellon Foundation
 

The Shockoe Project is intended as the cornerstone of Shockoe’s long-term development and is an important element of the Shockoe Small Area Plan, a supplement of the Richmond 300 Master Plan. 

A series of surveys and community engagement studies has been collected from past related projects to guide the development of The Shockoe Project and to ensure that the design is grounded in community opinion and informed by public feedback. As The Shockoe Project advances, public engagement will inform the project’s development.

Shockoe Valley has always rested within a floodplain, and Shockoe Bottom hosts the lowest elevation in the entire city. The low point is also the collection point of an 8,000-acre watershed. In 2022, FEMA updated the floodplain mapping nationally as a reaction to changes in rain and weather patterns. This FEMA mapping update enlarges the impacted 100-year floodplain within Shockoe Bottom and defines the boundaries of a floodway. A floodway is an area within a floodplain where water flows most turbulently during a flash flood rain event. It is difficult to develop within this newly mapped floodway, presenting new challenges for the design of The Shockoe Project Study Area.

SHOCKOE RICHMOND HISTORY

Eyre Crowe, After the Sale:
Slaves Going South from Richmond, 1854

Freedmen in Shockoe

Unveiling of the Reconciliation
Statue in Richmond, 2007

Archaeological Excavation
of the Lumpkin’s Jail site, 2008

The Shockoe Project TEAM.

The Shockoe Project is a joint effort of multiple city agencies and a multi-disciplined professional services team.

PROJECT TEAM:

Owner: City of Richmond

Project Management: Jeannie Welliver

Project Liaison: Leo Mantey

Curatorial Team:

Toni Wynn • Christy Coleman • Ana Edwards • Lauranett Lorraine Lee

Bryan Clark Green • Lynn Rainville

Shockoe Institute President and CEO:

 Marland Buckner

 https://shockoeinstitute.org/

Consultant Team:

Master Plan Development: Baskervill

Civil Engineering: VHB

Landscape Design: Waterstreet Studio

Structural Engineering: Blue Nest 

Interpretive Design: Riggs Ward

Preliminary Geotechnical Engineering: Schnabel Engineering

Cost Estimating: OCMI

Archaeology: James River Institute for Archaeology

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