Tuckahoe Plantation; A Sight of Slavery, NOT Just Thomas Jefferson’s Childhood Home

by Sabrina Garcia

Sabrina Garcia is a junior from, Waldwick, New Jersey double majoring in Leadership Studies and English and minoring in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). This is her first year working on the Race & Racism Project, on Team Archive. Sabrina is in the WILL* Program, works as a writing consultant, and is training to be a PSMA. She hopes to dedicate her career to social justice and believes in the mission of Race & Racism wholeheartedly.

Having never been to a plantation before, I was astounded by the eerie beauty of it all. Upon arriving to Tuckahoe Plantation, down a long never-ending dirt path, I was in awe of the luscious gardens and picturesque colonial home that stood in the center of the land. This plantation is well known as the childhood home of Thomas Jefferson and is now a popular venue for weddings and parties. An elderly women’s church group accompanied us upon our tour of the grounds, and I soon came to learn that many of the women were Westhampton College graduates. The tour guide was a beaming young woman who recounted tales of the war, detailing the story of owner Virginia Allen using her southern hospitality to charm a Union soldier into not burning down the plantation during the height of the Civil War. There was also a tale of a jealous suitor throwing a torch through a window, with a visible scorch mark on the floor as proof. I could not help but notice the reactions of our company, as the women were delighted to hear these small stories that brought back days they had only heard of.

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Regeneration and Resistance at the VMFA

by Johnnette Johnson

Johnnette Johnson is a rising senior from Marksville, Louisiana majoring in American Studies and French. Though her journey with the Race & Racism Project only began this summer, she has been involved in racial justice and community work since her matriculation at UR. A peer mentor and UR Downtown ambassador, when she’s not on campus or with family she’s out enjoying nature. She hopes to continue doing the work of commemorative justice and collective healing.

Cosmologies from the Tree of Life: Art from the African American South is the exhibit that caught my eye while on the search for my in-Richmond site visit.

“Rooted in African aesthetic legacies, familial tradition, and communal ethos,” the exhibit set out to center artists who were often marginalized as uneducated or self-taught. After reading about the site, I was excited to see what it was about and I was curious to know how the artworks would draw a connection between “cosmologies,” “tree of life,” and “African American South.”

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Acknowledge the Past

by Jenifer Yi

Jenifer Yi is a sophomore from Santa Clarita, California majoring in Biochemistry with a concentration in Neuroscience and a minor in Healthcare Studies. She has been involved with the Race & Racism Project since 2018 and hopes to diversify the conversation and inclusion of all students of color at the University of Richmond. On campus, she is a part of the leadership board for the Asian American Student Union. Through her contributions to the project, she wants to push for campus-wide racial awareness. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in medicine while continuing to advocate and raise awareness for healthcare access for minorities.

Richmond has a rich history as one of the most active participants in the African slave trade and is prominently known as the Capital of the Confederacy. Despite its history, Richmond’s troubled past is not always visible to the naked eye. Many prominent landmarks have been paved over by sidewalks, parking lots, and contemporary infrastructure. A short car ride from metropolitan Richmond, there are still prominent relics of the Civil War era Virginia that have not fallen to city landscaping. Plantations, which used to be quintessential to the slave trade and economic boom of the South, now stand as echoes of the past. I decided to delve into the history of history of oppressed enslaved Africans by visiting Shirley Plantation, one of several James River plantations.

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Let Sleeping Dinos Lie

by Cole Richard

Cole Richard is a junior from Orlando, Florida double majoring in English and Italian Studies and minoring in Linguistics. This is his first summer working on the Race & Racism project. He is also a resident assistant, DJ at the campus radio station, and student worker at the music library.

Having grown up a frequent visitor of Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, I have fond memories of walking through the mythic arched gateway to Jurassic Park. The iconic logo flanked on either side by torches that are lit no matter the time of day; the surrounding flora that somehow feels more prehistoric than regular Florida vegetation. Walking under that arch, a whimsical transportation takes place and you feel, if just for a moment, that you’ve really stepped into Jurassic Park.

From the road, Dinosaur Kingdom II, an attraction outside of Lexington, Virginia, strikes a similar chord. The design of its stone archway evokes that of Jurassic Park while drawing inspiration from the nearby Natural Bridge (an important location to the park’s fabricated narrative). The attraction’s entrance trades the pyrotechnics and immersive foliage of Spielberg’s masterpiece for a Tyrannosaurus Rex, bursting through a railroad car, about to eat to Union soldier.

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Attending the Dedication of Arthur Ashe Boulevard

by Nathan Burns

Nathan Burns is a junior from Newtown, Pennsylvania double-majoring in French and Leadership Studies and minoring in English. This summer of 2019 marks Nathan’s first time working with the Race & Racism Project. On campus, Nathan is also a writing consultant and a member of the dining services student advisory committee.

“It feels good to be in Richmond. Four hundred years later, it’s good to be here.”

These words, rising proudly above exuberant applause, belong to Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. The acclaimed civil rights activist delivered this statement to hundreds of people on June 22, 2019 at the Arthur Ashe Boulevard Dedication Ceremony, which took place on the front steps of the Virginia Museum of History and Culture. I had the privilege of witnessing this remarkable moment in the city of Richmond’s history, a moment that coincided with the unveiling of the museum’s new commemorative exhibition called “Determined: The 400-year Struggle for Black Equality.” This ceremony on a sunny Saturday morning was my first introduction to the life and work of Arthur Ashe, as well as my first time seeing and hearing many of Virginia’s key politicians in person. Along with keynote speaker John Lewis, I heard speeches from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.

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Plantation Tours and Erasing Black Spaces

by Gabby Kiser

Gabby Kiser is a junior from Williamsburg, Virginia majoring in English and minoring in History. This is her first summer with the Race & Racism Project. She is also the general manager of WDCE 90.1 FM, a design editor for The Messenger, and a Bunk content wrangler.

Coming from Williamsburg, VA, I’ve taken my fair share of plantation tours. On the way to Tuckahoe Plantation, which is 14 minutes from the University of Richmond, I expected a familiar setup. Particularly, I anticipated any information on the plantation’s enslaved Africans to be part of a self-guided grounds tour, fed by a few words acknowledging their presence on a sign or two. Tuckahoe provided even less than this bare minimum that I’d expected. Maybe, though, their silence says more than anything about how plantation tours treat the history of enslavement.

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Miles To Go

by Meghna Melkote

Meghna Melkote is a rising sophomore from Scranton, Pennsylvania majoring in Political Science and Philosophy and minoring in Music. This is her first summer working with the Race & Racism Project as a member of Team Archive. She is involved with the Mock Trial and Debate teams, performs in chamber music ensembles, is a member of the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity, and is a content curator for public history platform bunkhistory.org

Photo by Nicole Maurantonio

On June 21st, 2019, the New York Times published an essay by reporter Kurt Streeter about the re-naming of a major road in Richmond, Virginia. Amidst the hum of debate surrounding how to handle existing Confederate monuments nationwide, the city council of the former capital of the Confederacy voted to rename a major street formerly known as “Boulevard” to “Arthur Ashe Boulevard”. Arthur Ashe was a record-breaking tennis player, civil rights supporter, and writer whose nephew led the charge to commemorate his uncle. While this change was brought about by activists and a strong city council in Richmond (there was an 8-1 vote in favor of it), the publication of this story in the New York Times shows that this brand of cities reckoning with their history is not unique to Richmond. I had the opportunity to attend the official dedication of the boulevard on June 22nd, 2019. The event was held at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, and coincided with the opening of their new exhibit “Determined: The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality”.

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Reclaiming the Narrative

by Shira Greer

Shira Greer is a rising sophomore from Fairfax, Virginia majoring in Political Science and minoring in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. This is her first summer working with the Race & Racism Project. On campus she is also a Richmond Scholar, an Oliver Hill Scholar, a Peer Advisor and Mentor, and a member of the Executive Council for a Multicultural Space at the University.

For my second site visit, I chose to go to Virginia Commonwealth University’s Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA). One of the exhibitions on display is entitled Monument, and is the first work of the ICA’s Provocations series, which commissions artists to create a new artwork for the light-filled, high-ceilinged True Farr Luck Gallery, housed on the top floor of the museum and designed by architect Steven Holl as “a provocation for artists to engage.” Created by Rashid Johnson, Monument is a towering steel structure filled with plants, shea butter sculptures, books, and video monitors.

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Shirley Plantation: Most Old Plantation in Virginia

by Jisu Song

Jisu Song is a sophomore from Richmond, Virginia not decided in major but minoring in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). She has been involved with the Race & Racism Project since 2019 and is currently serving in the Oral History Team. As a student, she is an executive member in WILL*, member of Sirens, and a peer advisors and mentors. She hopes to work for global audiences.

I decided to go to Shirley Plantation because I wanted to see how big the plantation was and how the plantation is described toward tourist. During the general research about the plantation, I read many high ratings that complimented the site. Some of the comments mentioned that the site is very pretty, historically informed, and worth the price. From this research, before I arrived in the site, my expectation was very high about the tour and site. I expected the tour to be mostly talked about enslavement and how owner thoughts about enslavement. My expectation for Shirley Plantation was very high. However, my site visit did not fulfill my interest in learning more about how people were living in the past.

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A More Perfect Museum

by Cole Richard

Cole Richard is a junior from Orlando, Florida double majoring in English and Italian Studies and minoring in Linguistics. This is his first summer working on the Race & Racism project. He is also a resident assistant, DJ at the campus radio station, and student worker at the music library.

The American Civil War Museum sits on the banks of the James River, a short 20 minute walk from downtown Richmond. Located on Tredegar Street and housed in the ruins of the Tredegar Iron Works, the museum opened just a few months ago, the result of a merger between the former American Civil War Center and the Museum of the Confederacy. Although that merger took place in 2014, it took six years of work for the new combined museum to open. Drawing artifacts from both defunct institutions, the new museum’s expressed aim is “to be the preeminent center for the exploration of the American Civil War and its legacies from multiple perspectives: Union and Confederate, enslaved and free African Americans, soldiers and civilians.” This objective was apparent to me upon entering the museum.

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