The city of Richmond, Virginia is celebrating its changes. In the former capital of the Confederacy — former home to its president, Jefferson Davis — black-owned businesses are growing, more Confederate statues are being removed, black artists are inspiring, and a National Slavery Museum is soon coming.
Here are five ways to celebrate Black History Month in Richmond all year long.
1) Museums & Walking Tours, America’s First Black Neighborhood and more.
The Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia, serves as a gateway to the rich history, heritage and accomplishments of African Americans in Virginia. The recently removed Robert E. Lee statue will now be seen here.
Its collection includes art, artifacts, textiles, photographs, rare books, music and other items. The Museum also hosts traveling exhibitions, literary talks, and special events. Located in the historic Jackson Ward neighborhood, the museum is housed in The Leigh Street Armory.
The Valentine Museum offers a walking tour of Richmond’s Jackson Ward, which was the nation’s first historically registered Black urban neighborhood. Once known as the “Black Wall Street of the South” and “Birthplace of Black Entrepreneurship,” the district was a center for black enterprise and entertainment from the early 1920’s to the late 1940’s.
An effort is underway to rebuild the district. In recent years it has gained such notable attractions such as the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, honoring the first African-American woman to charter a bank and serve as bank president; the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia; and the Bill “Bojangles” Robinson Monument; public art including the Mending Walls murals, and a variety of Black-owned restaurants such as Mama J’s and Soul Taco.
The Jackson Ward Collective was formed in 2020 to continue its rebirth, helping black entrepreneurs get started and build Black Businesses.
- The American Civil War Museum, the first museum of its kind to explore the war through Union, Confederate and African-American perspectives.
- The self-guided Richmond Slave Trail, which includes seventeen markers along the path that display somber and illuminating information on the history of slavery in Richmond.
- The African Burial Ground, once home to the public gallows and now covered with tributes to General Gabriel, who was executed on this spot in 1800 after organizing a revolt of enslaved people.
2) Sacrifice, Suffering & Breaking Barriers
Featuring an enslaved family, barrier-breaking entertainer and first black male tennis player:
- The new Emancipation and Freedom Memorial, one of the few nationwide monuments commemorating enslaved people, features two 12-foot bronze statues representing a man, woman, and infant newly freed from slavery. The statue was dedicated in late September, shortly after the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was removed from Monument Avenue.
- Slavery Reconciliation Statue, which shows two figures in an embrace — and covered with images of shackles and slave ships.
- Henry Box Brown, an enslaved man who climbed into a two-foot-by-three-foot crate and mailed himself to freedom in Philadelphia in 1849 after his wife and children were sold.
- Kehinde Wiley’s reimagined “Rumors of War” monument of a young African American dressed in urban streetwear outside the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA).
- Virginia Civil Rights Memorial on the Capitol grounds.
- Bill “Bojangles” Robinson monument in Jackson Ward, commemorating the young entertainer who helped to break down barriers in Hollywood in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
- Arthur Ashe monument, the lone monument still standing on Monument Avenue after the Confederate statues were torn down.
3) Black Culture and Art
Richmond’s street art scene includes powerful murals by black artists, including Hamilton Glass’ Mending Walls, a healing public art project that brings together artists from diverse cultural backgrounds in creating murals that address issues of racial injustice.
Four new murals were recently added, with each pair of artists collaborating with a local non-profit organization dedicated to serving the black community in areas including food justice, mental health, criminal justice reform and housing.
The Elegba Folklore Society celebrates African and African American culture with events, performances and experiences, year-round.
4) Eat Your Way Through Black History.
Dine at vibrant restaurants and cafés, including:
- Ruby Scoops & Suzy Sno – Black owner & chef Rabia Kamara’s 100% natural and handcrafted ice cream won “Ben & Jerry’s: Clash of the Cones” contest and $20,000 in Sept. 2021.
- Lillie Pearl — Black owner and chef Michael Lindsey married the flavors of his childhood with West African and Southern influences.
- Ms. Girlee’s Kitchen — Helen Holmes has teamed up with her younger brother and chef, Frank Crump, to cook soul food just as their grandma used to cook.
- JewFro — Inspired by the heritage of co-owners Trey Owens, who is black, and Ari Augenbaum, who is Jewish, JewFro is a Jewish/African deli and coffee shop by day and a culinary journey through two robust cultures by night.
5) Shop & Spend on Black-Owned Businesses.
A few of Richmond’s black-owned businesses, include:
- Adiva Naturals — Natural products like bath bombs, hair care and skincare sets.
- C’est Le Vin — wine and art at this wine bar and gallery.
- Little Nomad — A curated collection of baby and children’s clothing, books and toys.
- Sassy Jones Boutique — Statement pieces, handbags and accessories.
(In honor of Black History Month, listen to Episode #20 of my travel podcast, Places I Remember with Lea Lane, “Traveling Jim Crow to Now, with Actor Stephen Bishop and His Mom.”)