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Richmond’s Unhealed History

November 5, 2011 1:40 pm by

Brandylane is proud to announce the release of Richmond’s Unhealed History by the Rev. Benjamin P. Campbell, a Rhodes Scholar and Episcopalian priest. In many ways, Richmond, Virginia is a microcosm of America’s history and current political economic situation, making this work of paramount relevance to citizens of all stripes, everywhere.

Rev. Campbell examines the contradictions and crises that have formed Richmond over more than four centuries (PDF), from before Columbus to the current era. Centered on ideas of spiritual and social justice, Rev. Campbell believes the people of Richmond can prove to the world that race and class can be conquered by the deliberate and prayerful intention of honest and dedicated citizens.

I’ve skimmed a preview copy of this and I’m really looking forward to having the time to really dig into it. Rev.Campbell’s voice and perspective is a welcome addition to the ever-growing pantheon of RVA-centric books.

Here is a piece from the book that explains one of the small mysteries of the neighborhood

In the mid-1970’s, the Church Hill Area Revitalization Team (CHART), a community group in Church Hill, uncovered a long- standing joint city-state plan to demolish the remaining center of Jackson Ward and the center of Church Hill for a new, six-lane divided highway which would connect Eastern Henrico with the western portion of the city. The city had announced that it was involving Church Hill residents in the design of a new bridge across Shockoe Valley to replace the two-lane Marshall Street viaduct, used extensively by pedestrians, and connect Church Hill to Jackson Ward. Residents were surprised when they discovered that the neighborhood bridge they had thought they helped to plan was actually a six-lane facility designed for higher speed traffic. Strangely, the bridge ended in Church Hill in a confused network of narrow cobblestone streets. On the other end, once it passed the coliseum in a six-lane, bi-level configuration, it ended suddenly in the relatively narrow passage of Leigh Street through what had been the center of black life in Richmond: the hotels, the churches, funeral homes, schools, and Maggie Walker’s House.

CHART, led by community activist James Elam, discovered the bridge was actually the centerpiece of yet another downtown by-pass planned by state legislators and the Virginia Department of Highways. On its west end, the road was designed to travel through the Leigh Street Corridor, demolishing the historic buildings on at least one side of the street and dissecting the fragment that remained of the once- vital center of Jackson Ward. On the other end, it would cut through a neighborhood of single family homes in the center of Church Hill, creating a wide barrier of traffic and concrete separating all of the newly erected public housing projects from the revitalizing historic district to the south. Richmond’s five major public housing projects would thus be completely fenced in by limited access superhighways.


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