Richmond, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Richmond Slave Trail
Lumpkinís Jail was owned by Robert Lumpkin, who maximized profits in his compound by including lodging for s1ave traders, a slave holding facility, an auction house, and a residence for his family. A port city with water, ground and rail connections, Richmond was linked to slave buying markets such as Charleston and New Orleans. Enslaved Africans referred to Lumpkinís Jail as “the Devilís Half Acre,” reflecting the despair and anger of people separated forever from their families. However, Mary Lumpkin, a black woman who was Robertís widow, boosted post-Civil-War black education when, in 1867, she rented the complex to a Christian school, which evolved into Virginia Union University.
The Devilís Half-Acre
An account written in 1856 by Charles Emery Stevens describes the treatment of a captured fugitive slave named Anthony Burns. This record, excerpted below, offers a damning portrayal of Lumpkinís Jail, a place that—unfortunately—was all too typical of such businesses in Richmond and elsewhere throughout the South.
“Here he was destined to suffer, for four months, such revolting treatment as the vilest felons never undergo, and such as only revengeful slaveholders can inflict. The place of his confinement was a room only six or eight feet square,
From Anthony Burns: A History
By Charles Emery Stevens, 1856
About the Trail
Designed as a walking path, the Richmond Slave Trail chronicles the history of the trade in enslaved Africans from their homeland to Virginia until 1778, and away from Virginia, especially
Title image: “After the Sale: Slaves Going South”, 1853, Painted from live by Eyre Crowe, courtesy the Chicago History Museum
The Lumpkinís Jail Complex
2_Hotel and Tavern
Russell Photograph, taken April
Recent Archaeological Findings
Beginning in the Spring of 2006, the James River Institute for Archaeology under contract with the City of Richmond conducted a two-phase archaeological investigation of the Lumpkinís Jail Complex. Prior to breaking ground, the 19th-century site was located in our 21st century city by “georeferencing” the 1835 Bates map of Richmond with present day aerial photos and modern mapping data. Upon view of the resulting images, researchers quickly realized that the entirety of Robert Lumpkinís property – including the jail – lay buried beneath interstate 95, its flanking embankments and the parking lot behind Main Street Train Station.
With the site now located, the first phase of the investigation could begin. Since the death of Robert Lumpkin in 1866, his property and site of Lumpkinís jail had changed ownership several times and supported industries such as an ironworks foundry, a railroad depot and finally, a major interstate. Keeping this in mind, the archaeological team sought to confirm the presence of intact cultural layers, features, and associated artifacts
Energized by the initial findings, a rigorous archaeological excavation took place between August and December of 2008. Although the area of investigation was limited by the proximity of the interstate, the old jail building presumably fell on land located beneath the parking lot and was therefore potentially accessible. Over the course of several months, thousands of cubic yards of fill soils were carefully removed within an area measuring roughly 160 by 80 feet. The various soil layers were recorded and significant features and artifacts were documented, photographed and cataloged. During this time the archaeological team encountered the slab footers of the former Seaboard Air Line Railroad warehouse, as well as the intact foundations of the Richmond Ironworks foundry. As the excavation continued, relics
In the Model
Drawn from a computer-generated 3-D model, the images above depict an accurate reconstruction of the Lumpkinís Jail complex. Based on first-hand accounts, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, etchings and daguerreotypes dating to the 1850ís, the form, materials and situation of the four building owned by Robert Lumpkin are shown as they were when the jail was in use between the mid-1840ís and 1865. In the rendering you see the dwelling house (1) where Robert and lived with Mary, his wife and former slave, and their five children. The hotel & tavern (2) where Lumpkin entertained potential slave buyers lies to the
The atrocities of Lumpkinís Jail came to an end with the fall of Confederate forces heralding the end of the Civil War. And, similar to the newly freed slaves once held behind its bars, the jail building soon breathed in a new and better life. In 1867, only two years after the cries of beaten men, women and children could be heard emanating from “the Devilís Half-Acer”, Mary Lumpkin leased the property to Reverend Nathanial Colver, a Baptist minister who hoped to establish a religious school for those previously enslaved. Stepping over the same iron ring in the floor that once tethered slaves while they were whipped, Mr. Colver taught classes to a quickly growing number of students and soon Lumpkinís Jail became The Colver Institute, later known as the Richmond Theological Seminary. Upon moving into more spacious quarters in 1870, this small school once housed in a s1ave prison adopted the title it still holds proudly today,
Virtual reconstruction of Lumpkinís Jail based on Archeological evidence and historical records (above). Virginia Union University, shown circa 1909, evolved from The Colver Institute, which used Lumpkinís Complex as their first facilities (below).
Erected 2011 by Richmond Slave Trail Commission. (Marker Number 15.)
Location. 37° 32.196′ N, 77° 25.712′ W. Marker is in Richmond, Virginia. Marker can be reached from East Franklin Street east of North 15th Street. Click for map. These markers are located in a parking lot between E Franklin St and Broad St just east of I-95. Marker is in this post office area: Richmond VA 23219, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Old Negro Burial Ground (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Execution of Gabriel (about 300 feet away); Richmondís African Burial Ground (about 600 feet away); First African Baptist Church (about 700 feet away); a different marker also named First African Baptist Church (about 700 feet away); Kahal Kadosh Beth Shalome (about 800 feet away); The Triangle (approx. 0.2 miles away); Monumental Church (approx. 0.2 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Richmond.
Also see . . .
1. Richmond City Council Slave Trail Commission. (Submitted on April 20, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.)
2. History of Virginia Union University. Researched by Dr. Raymond P. Hylton, Professor of History (Submitted on April 20, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.)
3. Old Marker at this Location. This marker replaced an older one at this location also titled “Lumpkin's Jail” (Submitted on April 20, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.)
4. Old Marker at this Location. This marker replaced an older one at this location titled “The Slave Trade in Richmond” (Submitted on April 20, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.)
Categories. • Abolition & Underground RR • African Americans • Education •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,613 times since then and 137 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.