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Invisible Richmond: The History Behind the Urban LandscapebyValerie Schwarz
I vividly remember my first trip on which I spent any significant time in Richmond. I was just a freshman in high school and my brother was a freshman at the University of Richmond. My mom, my dad, my other brother and I drove to Richmond for Family Weekend. We drove seven hours from the northernmost tip of New Jersey to Richmond. I remember taking my brother out to dinner at the Tobacco Company in Shockoe Bottom. In order to get there, the hotel recommended that we drive down Monument Avenue because it was so pretty and historic. As we drove down the wide street with a large grassy median, and old Southern homes lining each side we eagerly watched for the next gigantic monument of a Confederate general. It seemed so cool at the time since I was learning about the Civil War in school, and also because I was not familiar with Richmond or its history. As we continued driving, the car started rumbling as we hit the cobblestone part of Monument Avenue, which led us to the iconic restaurant set in an old tobacco warehouse in Richmond, Virginia. While waiting to be seated, I remember watching the "cigarette girls" weaving in and out of the crowded bar area selling cigarettes to the patrons. I remember riding the original, old, wrought-iron elevator to our floor. You could see out through the black twisted iron. There were plants hanging on every floor as we made our ascent to the third floor. The door opened and we arrived at our table. That is my first memory of the city that would later become my home, and whose history I now teach.
The next morning, my inaugural trip to Richmond included a visit to the Confederate Museum of Virginia. I recall marveling at all of the artifacts including old weapons and uniforms from the Civil War. During my visit to the gift shop I remember purchasing a souvenir: replica bullets.
After spending less than a week in the Invisible Cities seminar with Joe Roach, I can't help but notice the "visible" history that the City of Richmond showcases – Civil War generals, military uniforms, and weapons – so focused on the martial aspects of the war. I also can't help but reflect back on my first encounter with this unfamiliar place. As an adolescent, the grandeur of the monuments, the houses, and the breadth of the abundantly wide street mesmerized me. My impressionable brain willfully accepted the heroic nature of the over-sized figures before me. They were to be revered since I had learned about them in history class. After much research, I now understand that the history Richmond displays accurately reflects the collective memory of our nation, a one-sided view that leaves out the parts that are too shameful to share.
Objectives and Rationale
The goal of this curriculum unit is to teach my students that there is history all around us, but it needs to be discovered. Richmond has an enormous amount of history and has played an important role as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. The tourist attractions show only a portion of Richmond's history, and history is reconstructed to narrate the story in a particular way. But what lies behind the buildings, and beneath their feet may turn up a much richer story. I want them to understand how the in-depth study of one location can reveal much more than first meets the eye. Whether it is a parking lot, an expressway or an abandoned building, there is a story to be told.
Searching for the story may also reveal a multitude of layers that trace the changing landscape throughout time. The distinction between history and memory is at the crux of this curriculum unit. History is distant and seems to differ from our own world. Bernard Bailyn claims that our present world evolves from and contains residues of the past. History illuminates a story and shows the outcome, which we want to know. Memory is different from history because it is not a distant reconstruction. Memory involves one's experience with the past and one's emotion.(1) I want students to understand Richmond's memory and history. It is important for them to engage with human experiences and recreated stories because according to Bernard Bailyn, "We cannot afford to diminish either if we are to understand who we are and how we got to be the way we are."(2)
The idea of students discovering the story of Richmond's past that is not always told is important for all of the students in Richmond Public Schools to comprehend. My students tend to have a great deal of exposure to historical sites around the state, but it is portrayed mostly through contrived attractions and displays. I teach fourth grade at Mary Munford Elementary School and an important aspect of the curriculum is Virginia Studies. The curriculum begins with a review of explorers and then spans from the Native People who lived in Virginia thousands of years ago to the present day. The curriculum focuses on important events, often skipping decades at a time. The growth of Richmond due to industry, the Civil War, and Reconstruction are the main Virginia Studies topics that resonate with this unit. I plan to teach the unit primarily during language arts and to focus on research, oral language, and written narratives. In order to teach my students the difference between history and memory, they also need to gain historical background knowledge on the tobacco and slave industries, the Lumpkin Jail, and the Winfree Cottage. The tobacco and slave industries shaped Richmond's economical, political, and social landscapes and continue to influence them today. The Lumpkin Jail was the most infamous of numerous slave pens used to hold slaves primarily prior to auctions. The Winfree Cottage is a simply constructed building owned by a freed slave that will provide a window into the past. These foci provide a more complete history than one shaped solely on martial representations.
The Virginia Colony began in 1607 with the Jamestown settlement. The first Africans were brought to Jamestown in 1619, although whether the Africans were indentured servants or slaves is still debated. Tobacco became the cash crop, and eventually turned the settlement into a profitable economic venture. According to Jack Trammell, "By 1700, there were 52 businesses or factories (in Richmond) producing tobacco plugs alone." (3) The success of tobacco increased the need for inexpensive labor and Virginia became dependent on slave labor. Tobacco provided a source of wealth for Virginia, but eventually wore out the soil. Many Virginians chose to migrate to the Deep South. As the Deep South boomed with the cotton industry, so did its need for slave labor. Richmond has always been a portage, and was well situated geographically to trade slaves. Richmond had railroads and the James River, both leading to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. There were also some canals, roads, and a port located at Rocketts Landing. Some of the first businesses in the City of Richmond were slave dealers and auction houses. During the Revolutionary War, the slave trade moved north of the James River to the area of Rocketts Landing and Shockoe Bottom. The area was called the Wall Street district, where slaves were auctioned off on blocks as families were torn apart. Trammell also states, "By 1860, nearly 250 years after the first African arrived in Jamestown (1619) more than half a million African Americans had been bought and sold in Richmond's slave markets and auction houses, part of nearly one million slaves eventually sold and moved south and west from the region."(4) Trammell also claims in some years, the booming slave trade grossed Richmond nearly "$500 million in 2011 dollars."(5) Richmond was burned in 1865 prior to the Civil War surrender at Appomattox. The fire damaged part of the Wall Street district, and the rest would be razed a few years later. Rebuilding and eventually highways (Interstate 95) and parking lots would consume most of the area.
History of Richmond's Slave Trade
An area in Richmond was known as Wall Street of the Confederacy. The streets from 14 th to 18 th was the Wall Street district, because it contained at least sixty-nine slave dealers and auction houses(6) The stretch of 15 th Street between Broad Street and Franklin Street has been called Lumpkin's Alley and was the heart of Richmond's slave trade district. When one thinks of Wall Street in New York, an image of a bustling floor crowded with people trading commodities and massive amounts of money being exchanged comes to mind. One also thinks of Wall Street as the economic center of the world, which is precisely why the same words were used to describe this section of the city. Moeser wrote, "Richmond was one of the world's wealthiest cities in the mid-1800's, thanks to its income from trading slaves to other southern states."(7)
In Virginia, the years of tobacco farming had tired out the soil. There was a migration of farmers to the Deep South, where cotton became king. In 1800, cotton made up only 7% of all U.S. exports, but by 1860, cotton made up 60 % of all U.S. exports. Virginia supplied the labor. In 1808, the importation of slaves was banned in the United States, and Virginia had a surplus of slaves. Richmond's portage system that had been used to import slaves was used to gather, to sell slaves that were already in the United States, and to move them to the south and west. As cotton production in the U.S. increased, so did the slave trade in Richmond. Nearly one million slaves were sold to the south or moved west from Richmond.(8) "An auction house owed by Hector Davis has reported more than $1.7 million in sales in total sales in 1858, more than $68 million in 2011 dollars."(9) Richmond from 1680-1780, was "the principal port of entry for Africans and eventually became the largest supplier of human cargo for the Deep South."(10)
The slave trade industry was so lucrative that any threat to the industry was quickly handled. Such was the case when Eyre Crowe, an Englishman, captured a memory of Richmond's slave trade in a famous drawing. In 1853, Crowe traveled to Richmond. He saw some advertisements and ventured to the Wall Street district to observe a slave auction. He went into several auction houses before beginning to make a sketch in the third house. People were suspicious of him fearing he was an abolitionist. Dealers and buyers threatened him. Eventually he left and slipped into the crowd to escape. Crowe's drawings were published in the London Illustrated News and have become iconic art of the slave trade. One is called, "In the Richmond Slave Market" and another is "Slaves Waiting for Sale in Richmond, Virginia 1861." These images are relevant to American History, but even more so to Richmond's history. Even though these images conjure up scars from the past, the story needs to be told.
Memory of Richmond Slave Trade
Henry Box Brown's story belongs to memory not history because the story is so tangible to children. When they see the box at the museum, they imagine mailing themselves and being cramped up in it for twenty-seven hours. The story of Henry Box Brown is well known throughout Richmond. The Virginia Historical Society has a replica box and tells the story and there is a statue of the box along the Canal Walk. There is also a picture book written for children titled, Henry's Freedom Box, and my students love to read it once they have seen the box at the Historical Society.
Henry Box Brown
Henry was born a slave not far from Richmond in Louisa County. He was sent to work in a tobacco factory in Richmond at the age of 15. His wife lived on a plantation beside Henry's and they knew each other for twelve years. Henry Box Brown describes the moment in his narrative when he learned his family was sold:
- …like an avalanche, had come rolling over my head! And what was it? "Your wife
- and smiling babes are gone; in prison they are locked, and to-morrow's sun will see
- them far away from you, on their way to the distant South!" Pardon the utterance of
- my feelings here, reader, for surely a man may feel, when all he prizes on earth is,
- at one fell stroke, swept from his reach!(11)
So Henry sends an acquaintance to the slave jail to deliver a message. The next day, Henry stands on the side of the road where a group of three hundred and fifty slaves pass. They are shuffling along in coffles.
- Pretty soon five wagonloads of little children passed, and looking at the foremost
- one, what should I see but a little child, pointing its tiny hand towards me,
- exclaiming, "There's my father, I knew he would come and bid me good-bye."(12)
Then Henry is able to grasp his wife, Nancy's hand and walk with her for a little bit. He wants to say good-bye, but he was unable to get the words to come out of his mouth. He turned away silently. According to Brown he had a vision and was told to get a box. Henry being a religious man listened. He went to the train depot and determined the measurements of the largest box used on the railroad cars. Then he had a carpenter construct a box with those same dimensions. The box was three feet by two feet. Henry took it to a friend who said he would help him, and Henry said that HE wanted to be put in the box. Henry had a friend in Philadelphia who would receive the box. Despite the box saying, "this side up with care." Henry started out right side up, but when he was transferred to a steamboat he was upside down. He remained on his head for about an hour and a half. He thought he would die when two men righted the box to make a seat for themselves. The men thought the box contained mail, and Henry thought the box did contain male, M-A-L-E. In Washington, D.C., the box was tossed from the wagon. With no room on the train, the box was going to have to remain. The workers decided it must travel with the rest of the mail. Henry was once again placed on his head. Soon he was turned upright to make room for more cargo. Henry arrived in Philadelphia at 3 a.m., but stayed in the depot until 6 a.m. when a person came to claim the box. After a short wagon ride, Henry arrived at the house. There were a number of people there, afraid to open the box, not sure what they would find. So they knocked on the box and asked if he was all right. He replied, "All right!"(13)
Henry Box Brown is relevant to the slave trail since there is a replica box located along the canal walk, and because his family was sold through Richmond. The story of Henry's family being sold is one shared by so many slave families, and the story of Henry mailing himself is a legend of slavery. Both stories need to be told.
The History of Lumpkin Jail
I consider this to be history and not memory. The Lumpkin Jail was demolished, and all that remains is the archaeological footprint and documentation of its past. The Lumpkin Jail is distant or abstract in contrast to the experiential vividness of Henry Brown's box. The Lumpkin Jail was a half-acre complex known as "Devil's Half Acre." It contained a residence and office, a boarding house for people interested in buying or selling slaves, a bar room, and a kitchen. Slave jails or pens imprisoned disobedient slaves and housed slaves prior to their sale. Lumpkin's Jail has been described as a large two or three story building (the information differs) surrounded by a fence that rose 10-12 feet capped off with iron spikes. Robert Lumpkin, the proprietor was known as the "Bully" because he was notoriously mean. He was married to one of his slaves named Mary. His slave trading business collapsed in 1865 with the fall of Richmond. He died a year later in 1866, leaving his property to Mary.(14)
In 1867, Dr. Nathaniel Colver, a theology professor from Chicago, came to Richmond. He held strong antislavery sentiments and was looking for a location to house a school. He was met with suspicion and skepticism. After seeking a location, he wound up leasing the former Lumpkin Jail from Mary Lumpkin and opened a religious school in 1867. Four of the buildings on the complex were used as a school for freedmen. The renewal of the former jail as a school led to a renewed nickname as well. The property was dubbed, "God's Half Acre" to reflect the positive activity that was occurring on the property. Dr. Colver became ill within a year and died in 1870. The school operated at the jail site for three years.(15) Then it moved to the United States Hotel Building at 19 th and Main. The school would move one more time, and would evolve into Virginia Union University, Richmond's only historically black university.
In 1873, Mary sold several Wall Street lots to Andrew Jackson Mary Lucy Ford. The Lumpkin Jail was likely destroyed in 1876. In 1892, John Chamblin and James H. Scott bought the property and established Richmond Iron Works with another colleague. The company manufactured engines and supplies for the electric railroad. The property would be sold again and the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, which created a depot on the site in 1909. By the mid 1900's the site was partially turned into a parking lot, and in the late 1950's the Richmond Petersburg Turnpike, which would become Interstate 95 was constructed in the area. A portion of the Lumpkin Jail site was buried beneath the elevated road and the remaining portion would be paved over with a parking lot.(16) The location would remain concealed for decades.
Recently, the foundation of the Lumpkin Jail has been discovered. Tracing the properties that Robert Lumpkin owned and using property deeds and a city map from 1835, the exact location of the Lumpkin Jail was determined. Matthew R. Laird and his team from the James River Archaeology, Inc conducted preliminary digs from April 3 through April 12, 2006. A second excavation took place in 2008. After four months of digging some 8-15 feet below the surface, the foundation of the infamous jail was discovered in December of 2008. The plot was 80 feet by 160 feet and the structure, a two story brick building, was buried beneath a university parking lot and Interstate 95. The location was soggy, which fortunately kept the oxygen out and helped to preserve the building. Thousands of artifacts and evidence of daily life were preserved. Glassware, shoes, toothbrushes, ceramics and fabric were recovered from the site. So far, two archaeological digs have been conducted and more are likely to occur in the future.
Memory of Lumpkin Jail
The story of Anthony Burns is quite famous. The fact that part of the story took place in Lumpkin's Jail is a little less known. I consider his story to be a memory for several reasons. There are narratives, or written versions of an oral tale which connect his story to one's emotions. When he escaped, he was an ordinary slave, but his saga in Boston turned him into an unforgettable legend. Another reason is that moving up north, but returning to the south is a profound element of African American memory.
Anthony Burns was a slave to Charles Suttle of Alexandria, Virginia. Anthony Burns had the "freedom" to hire himself out, and he also supervised other slaves hired out who belonged to Suttle. The hiring out of slaves was a common practice in urban areas in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Burns also joined a church where he learned to read and write. In 1854, he decided he wanted more freedom. So one day when he was working in Richmond, he got on a boat and went to Boston. Burns had freedom for a short time, but was considered a fugitive. The Fugitive Slave Act required that all runaway slaves who were captured had to be returned to their masters. Anthony was caught after he wrote a letter to his brother that ended up in his master's hands. Suttle traveled to Boston to claim his property. Anthony Burns was arrested and held at the courthouse. Faneuil Hall in Boston was the site of a meeting of about 200 white abolitionists, who met to discuss the Burns situation. They decided to go to the courthouse where Burns was being held. The crowd of supporters grew to several thousand whites and blacks. An altercation ensued, but the crowd was unable to free Burns, so he was returned to Richmond on June 2, 1854, but not before one U.S. marshal was killed and 13 people were arrested. About 50,000 Bostonians watched Burns as he was paraded in shackles to board the ship.
When Burns arrived in Richmond, he was brought to Lumpkin's Jail. He spent four months at Lumpkin's Jail in 1854. While in jail, he told others about freedom up north, and he also secretly sent some letters to Boston. Burns faced harsh treatment while in Lumpkin's Jail. He was scarred from the shackles and lived in filthy conditions. He was sold to a North Carolina planter for $905 and later to Northern abolitionists, who led him to freedom.
Today, there are brown historical location signs directing visitors to the site. The Lumpkin Jail is located in a parking lot owned by Virginia Commonwealth University. There are stone slabs that resemble auction blocks and educational signs with pictures describing the history of the Lumpkin Jail. To the left of the Lumpkin Jail Historical Site sits a modest, old wooden building atop a trailer. The building is the Winfree Cottage, the only remaining structure that belonged to a slave. Train tracks and the Main Street Station are visible from the Lumpkin Jail Site. The site of the Lumpkin Jail marked by cobblestones and auction blocks with the Winfree Cottage in the background are shown in Fig. 1.
The Winfree Cottage
As the story of the Winfree Cottage emerged, so did an untold history of Richmond. It epitomizes the conflicting claims of memory and history in the city. The Taylor & Parrish Construction Company was about to demolish the abandoned building located at 209 Commerce Street, on the South side of the city. Fortunately, Bill Thomas, a member of the Manchester Civic Association, and Brent Hosier recognized the value of the old, worn structure and contacted the Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods (A.C.O.R.N.) With little time to work, Brent Hosier brought the original deed of the little cottage to the A.C.O.R.N. office on a Friday afternoon. The construction company gave the historic structure to the City of Richmond. The Winfree Cottage was loaded onto a flatbed trailer and was spared the demolition that began on the following Monday.(17)
The wooden, clapboard building moved to a location behind the Exxon gas station located at 1621 E. Broad Street in Shockoe Bottom, which was the former site of Silas Omohundro's slave jail.(18) The Winfree Cottage survived flood-waters from Hurricane Gaston in 2004, and was relocated close to the Lumpkin Jail site for better security. It seems ironic that the only surviving building of a freed slave is being moved about on a trailer from the site of one slave jail to another. However, it exemplifies how extensive the slave trade was in Shockoe Bottom. Figure 2 shows the Winfree Cottage sitting atop the trailer adjacent to the Lumpkin Jail site.
The story of rescuing the historic building seems spectacular, but it was just the beginning. Further research would reveal a history that needed to be told. David Winfree, who lived in Manchester, an area south of the city of Richmond, bought the cottage for his former slave, Emily Winfree, in 1866 for $800. David Winfree is believed to have fathered several, or possibly, all of Emily's six children. He also gave her 100 acres of property in Chesterfield County.(19)
The Winfree Cottage was 24 feet by 12 feet and consisted of two rooms with a two-sided fireplace. Emily often lived with her family in one room and made ends meet by renting out the other room.(20) The history of Emily Winfree's family lineage revealed that she was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, a black burial ground. Mount Olivet sat right next to Maury Cemetery, which was the white cemetery. However, Mount Olivet later became a part of Maury Cemetery. Emily's story not only represents her own, but also the untold stories of many more blacks, who grew up in Richmond during slavery. "We were wondering how many other houses like this went by the wayside… how many other stories were lost because they were deemed unimportant," stated Jennie Knapp, Acorn's Executive Director.(21) The city of Richmond is still trying to decide the role the Winfree Cottage will play in the creation of the Richmond slave trail. Despite the concern and the recognition of the importance of the cottage in 2002, one cannot help but notice that it still sits atop a trailer in 2013, seemingly forgotten.
The Tobacco Industry
Many have memories of smoking. The tobacco industry has a history, and it is rooted in the city of Richmond. The Virginia Company of London established the Virginia colony in 1608. The colony was started as an economic venture. The English were hoping to find gold and silver or at least new trade routes and sources for new raw materials. However, it would be tobacco that would become the cash crop leading to the success of the Virginia Colony. The tobacco industry took off in Richmond in the 1800's. Tobacco processing factories expanded and according to Marie Tyler-McGraw, "by the 1840's Richmond became the largest tobacco market in the world with fifty factories."(22)
In Shockoe Bottom, old tobacco warehouses are being revitalized mostly into loft apartments and restaurants. The old Lucky Strike power plant is currently occupied by Odell Architects, but was built in 1910 to power the adjacent Lucky Strike tobacco factory. The outside of the building is designed to have the appearance of a loading dock.
The original steam chimney and coal silo are still there. Upon entering the building one cannot help but notice a large, arched concrete table that was original to the building. It held the turbines that generated electricity. Tags of graffiti have been saved and are evidence of the period of time when the building was abandoned. The original floor and iron girders constructed with rivets were purposefully preserved. The area where the firewall once existed can be seen, even thought he wall itself is invisible. The original doorway is visible, the one that had a string that would burn and automatically shut in the event of a fire. The skylight that provided the light has been saved, although the glass has been replaced. The silo still holds coal and the words Lucky Strike remain on the chimney. A newer addition is the sculpture of "Connecticut," a Native American in need of a new home once the Triple A Richmond Braves left town. Connecticut derived his name from the Native American word Quinnehtukqut, which means, "beside the long tidal river." The sculpture was designed to be a tribal tribute intended for the Potomac River, but instead he resides in Richmond. To my knowledge, Native Americans are not remembered in Richmond, but I feel the sculpture's current location is an unintended fitting tribute. Connecticut sits up on the roof overlooking the James River and the Manchester docks where slaves were brought before they were marched across to Shockoe Valley in the middle of the night, so the practice would not be seen. Connecticut also has a view of the canal, the railroads, the river, and the roads that provided the means for Richmond to become a city steeped in trade.
The Odell Building is a terrific example of how the history and memories of Richmond can be preserved while renewing an old building so it will serve a purpose in a more modern world.
The richness of Richmond's untold history can no longer be ignored. What I hope to accomplish through the teaching of this unit is ignite a spark within my students that compels them to seek out what is invisible in their city. Maybe they will be so inspired and will be more conscientious about renewing buildings in an effort to make the past more visible.
My plan to teach the unit begins with helping my students to understand the concepts of and distinction between history and memory. In order to get all of my fourth graders to understand these concepts, I want them to explore histories and memories in their familiar world. Once I introduce the concepts of history and memory, I want my students to recall one of their own memories from our school's "old" playground. The old playground is the wooden one, which was constructed by Mary Munford's PTA and the greater community at large. Once the students have written personal narratives about a playground memory, I want the class to research the history of the old playground. Funding was provided by individual and corporate donations. The playground is a large wooden structure and the spindles of the fence that surround it are carved to commemorate the many names of the people and businesses involved in its construction. I want my students to learn how to conduct an interview. I might have a local newspaper reporter visit the class to assist with this process. The whole class, as a group, will interview my principal and perhaps the former PTA president who were involved with the establishment of the playground. My students will play the role of historians and document the history of the playground. Each student will use the facts from the interviews and write the history from their perspective. Depending on their note-taking ability, the facts they choose to include, and their own perspective, each history will be different. The histories will be compared, to show them first hand how no two histories are alike. The idea is that they will learn the difference between history and memory by carefully crafting their own history and memory.
The next strategy is to have my students practice their interviewing skills independently. They will conduct their own interviews with their parents about another familiar place – their homes. I hope they can uncover the history of their house or at the very least their family's history in their house. Once the history is discovered I want them to present it to the class as an oral history, which I would love to capture on videotape. The students will also provide an oral narrative of a memory from their home. Part of my instruction will focus on the concept of familiar places and how emotions are tied to places to which we are intimately connected. An example I would like to share with them compares my experience with the gaslights that were in my childhood home to a neighborhood that I drive past in Richmond, Virginia. I lived in my childhood home for about twenty years. I have memories of events I lived through and am emotionally attached to my experiences and to the landscape surrounding my home. My emotions make the memories of my childhood so vivid. When I pass by the neighborhood in Richmond, I have no sentimental attachment or emotional memories associated with the neighborhood. When the descriptions are compared, the role emotion plays in memory is clearly evident.
When I think of a gaslight, I flash back to my childhood, and the familiarity of the yard surrounding the house in which I lived for almost my entire childhood. The yard had three gaslights, and I can quickly conjure up a picture from my mind, of the black pole, the glass windowpanes and the pale yellow burning of the netlike wick. I remember my mom using a small wooden ladder to change the wicks when they burned out and needed to be replaced.
Now fast forward to my memory of a gaslight in the less familiar place of Richmond. I have been living in Richmond for about twenty years of my adult life. My only memory of a gaslight is driving down the suburban road past the neighborhood dubbed "Gaslight." As I pass the street leading into the subdivision, a few black gaslights are visible. That's it. That is my memory of this less familiar place. I cannot help but to notice how the memories seem to be much weaker since not as much emotion is tied to them. The example of the gaslights illustrates the role emotion plays not only in memories, but in the larger concept of cultural history which combines history and memory, and the role emotions plays in understanding one's cultural history. I want my students to understand how memories involve emotions and tell stories and make the history real and not contrived. Memories humanize our past and help people to make emotional connections to the past.
In my unit, students will explore the history and memory of the Lumpkin Jail. The history of the site is enriched by the personal story and the memory of Anthony Burns. The memory enables the students to make meaningful connections to the past. My students can empathize and connect emotionally with Anthony Burn's experience. They will better understand what took place in 1854, a distant time that is so different from their own. By making these connections, my students will learn how to relate in meaningful ways to the history of their city.
The final strategy is to have my students research an unfamiliar building or location on the proposed Richmond Slave Trail. In small groups my students will conduct research from links I place on my webpage, and discover the significance of each location. Then they will also have to investigate a memory or a personal narrative involving the place along the slave trail.
Technology will be incorporated throughout the unit. The students will conduct research on the computers and will develop a class Prezi, which is an interactive presentation program similar to PowerPoint with more bells and whistles. The Prezi would travel to all of the sites on the slave trail and highlight the research of my students. Following their work in the classroom, I plan to have a guided tour of the slave trail conducted either by David Herring or by Janine Bell. David Herring works to save Richmond's history and memories every day and Janine Bell is a woman who conducts tours of the trail and was instrumental in putting the slave trail in place.
The economic success of Richmond has historically involved slavery. Even after the emancipation of slaves, freedmen provided the labor and worked in the factories. Blacks continued to play a key role in building Richmond as Selden Richardson declares with the title of his book about Richmond, Built by Blacks. As our Virginia Studies curriculum moves out of the nineteenth century and through the twenty-first century, I hope to continue on a journey to make the invisible visible, so my students will gain a better understanding of how our city was built.
The first activity I wish to elaborate upon is Day 6, when the students are introduced to interviewing techniques. The students will learn to thank their subjects for agreeing to be interviewed. Then, I want the students to learn how to generate questions that require the interviewee to provide more than a yes or no answer. Some suggested question stems would be: How did you…? Why did you…? What would you…? Explain… and Describe… If the students can start their questions in such a way it will foster conversation. While asking the questions seems as if it is the most important part of conducting an interview, listening is just as important. The students need to learn to listen to the responses. The interviewee may answer some questions that were also on the list or the response may lead to a follow-up question that was not on the list. The students also need to practice taking notes as opposed to trying to write down word for word responses. I plan to record the interview so students can revisit it just as reporters do today. As part of this activity I plan to provide the students with some questions that they can ask to a partner. The partner in return will read off responses and the interviewee will have to listen and take notes. I hope to allow the interviewer space to add an additional question based on the response and to also omit a question that gets answered prior to reaching it on the script. The students will switch roles, use a new script, and go through the same process. Both partners will be instructed to make eye contact throughout the interview.
The students will continue to hone their interview skills on Days 11-13. I envision the students working in class with partners to generate questions to ask their parents in the home interview. The students should try to find out when their home was built. What style is the house? Are there any old fixtures? Are there any fireplaces? How long has your family lived in the house? What do you know about previous owners? Are there any interesting stories about the house? Are there any interesting clues or marks on the walls, in the concrete, or in the yard? I anticipate that the students will come up with other questions that I have not anticipated. It is their interview, so I want it to reflect their personality and interests, but I want them to dig into the history of the house in particular. I may need to guide them toward some ways to identify clues to the age of the house. Once the interviews are conducted, the students will transform the information into an oral history to present to the class. I also want them to share one of their memories from their home.
The third activity that I want to expand upon is from Days 20-24 and is the climax of the unit. The students will be divided into cooperative groups, and each group will be given a location along the Slave Trail to research. I will have links to use posted on my website (see student resources.) The students are to discover the history of the location and I will provide a fact form to aid in gathering the facts. For each location the students need to identify the location by name and describe its location on the Slave Trail. Then they need to describe in detail why the site is important to the Slave Trade that took place in Richmond. I also want my students to discover when the location was constructed, installed (in the case of a sculpture), or recently uncovered.
Once the history is revealed, I want my students to find a personal memory related to the site. I plan to have several within my links (if available) and the students can choose the one that resonates with them. I expect my students to describe the memory as a story. They should answer the 5 W's (who, what, when, where, why) in their memory. Once the information is gathered the students will enter it into the class Prezi. Each group should include text of the history, text of the memory, and an image.
Daily Schedule Overview
I will introduce the concepts of history and memory. The class will visit the playground with a graphic organizer and complete their brainstorming for their memory of the playground.
Students will use their graphic organizer to write their rough drafts of their memory.
After the rough drafts have been edited either by a peer or by the teacher, the students will work on their final draft.
The students will learn some basic interview skills and practice with a partner. A guest from the local newspaper may visit the class to assist us. The skills will include how to ask a question that requires a more elaborate answer than a simple yes or no. The students will learn to listen as their partner answers the question and how to generate a new question based on a given response. The students will learn how to take notes and how to be courteous and grateful for the person or persons being interviewed.
The class will work in cooperative groups, then come together as a class to compile interview questions for the "press conference."
The class will individually write their history of the playground based on the information gleaned in the press conference.
The class will share their histories to compare and contrast the content.
Class time will be spent writing interview questions. The students will then go home and conduct interviews with their parents.
Students will work in class to create their oral history and memory that will be videotaped in class. Students can also work on the oral presentations at home.
The students' histories and memories will be videotaped.
The class will be given a hard copy of the history of the Richmond slave trade and the memory of Henry Box Brown from this unit and a Venn diagram. The students will complete the Venn diagram by comparing and contrasting the history and the memory.
Multiple copies of the book Henry's Freedom Box a True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine will be used as students create a poem. One partner will have to pick out facts from the story and the other partner will write down an emotion related to the events in the story. The poems will be published and shared orally with their classmates.
I will share the history and memory of the Lumpkin Jail. I also will share the University of Richmond's Google Earth website (see student resources) of the Shockoe Valley in 1876.
I will share the history and the memory of the Winfree Cottage. Then the class will break into cooperative groups and will be assigned a site on the slave trail to research.
I will take the students on a virtual field trip of the Odell building. The former power plant for tobacco warehouses has been revitalized for the modern world, but also shows how the memory of the past has been preserved. The students will be given a sketch of the Winfree Cottage and they will design the future use of the Winfree Cottage. Who knows? Maybe they will come up with an amazing idea that will become a reality.
The class will work on researching their location. They will have to determine the history and a memory of the location. Each group will work on a portion of the class Prezi once their research is complete.
The class will watch the Prezi and then we will discuss the ways blacks built Richmond.
The class will complete a final art/math project to bring the unit to a close. Each student will be given an outline of two hands. Each student will decorate one hand to indicate in some way what the hands of slaves did in our city of Richmond. The hands may be in shackles, twisting tobacco, or shaping iron. I want the students to creatively use words or art to convey their message on the hand. The second hand will represent the student's hand and what it will do in the future. The student's hands may represent a future career, further discovery of history in the city, or an aspiration to make the invisible visible. Once all of the hands are completed they will be displayed in the form of a tessellation (a repeating pattern involving sliding, flipping, and reflecting the hands.) The project will allow for student reflection and also provide a powerful culmination that looks to the future of Richmond.
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