RICHMOND, Va. — Historians and community activists argued Monday that a section of Richmond that was home to the city’s once-thriving slave-trading center is no place to build a minor league baseball park.
While a plan for a new stadium has not been formally proposed, opponents said the city’s Shockoe Bottom section should be ruled out as “sacred ground” and instead be developed in memory of the 300,000 to 350,000 Africans who were traded there for two centuries until the Civil War. They said too many African American historic sites already have been paved over or ignored in Richmond and Virginia.
"We are not opposed to growth," said Christy S. Coleman, president of the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar. "In fact, we encourage it, but not if the cost is so high that it allows us to forget our past, even the most painful elements." Read more.
Locals called it the “cemetery of the new blacks”, but in truth it wasn’t much of a cemetery. Devoid of headstones, wreaths or tearful mourners, this squalid harbourside burial ground was the final resting place for thousands of Africans shipped into slavery.
The new world greeted them with a lonely death in an unfamiliar land.
For decades the cemetery and those buried there between 1760 and 1830 were forgotten, hidden under layer after layer of urban development.
But 15 years after the cemetery’s fortuitous discovery – during the renovation of Petrucio and Ana de la Merced Guimaraes’s family home when builders unearthed a series of muddy skeletons – academics now believe they have evidence of the true reach of the slave trade.
The study of teeth from 30 partial skeletons has hinted that slaves arriving in Rio – many of whom were sold on to work in coffee and sugar plantations or gold mines – came from a much wider geographical region than once thought. Read more.
Geneticists, archaeologists and historians are joining forces to investigate the history of transatlantic slavery, in a €4.3-million (US$5.8-million) project launched today. The researchers say that the project is a unique opportunity to improve our knowledge of the slave trade, but warn that some of their results might be “uncomfortable”.
Between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, millions of people from west and central Africa were captured and shipped across the Atlantic by European slave traders to a life of forced labour in the Americas. The subject has been well studied by historians, but one of the coordinators of the project, geneticist Hannes Schroeder of the Center for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, says that there are still “large gaps in our knowledge” regarding the origins of the people captured as slaves, for instance, and how the slave trade operated.
The historical records are fragmentary,” he says. “For example, they tend to mention just the port of export, rather than the ethnic or geographical origin of the person. The idea is that by bringing in genetics, we get a different view.” Read more.