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“The Devil’s Half Acre”: How one enslaved woman left her mark on education

In Virginia’s capital metropolis, trapped between a railroad yard and an interstate freeway, a renewed panorama has unlocked the legacy of a stolen individuals. “I was doing research to learn more about the slave trading district down here,” mentioned journalist Kristen Green.

That analysis led to one woman whose story haunted Green for almost a decade. “I just couldn’t forget Mary Lumpkin,” she advised CBS News. “Like, once I learned about her, I thought her story was so important and needed to be shared.”

On project in 2011 for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Green reported on the very place that enslaved woman lived, the nation’s largest African American burial floor, a last resting place for some 200,000.

It’s proper subsequent to the grounds of a jailhouse often called “The Devil’s Half Acre,” now buried beneath cobblestones and 15 ft of crammed filth. “They tore down the building and covered it up. Only the foundations remain,” Green mentioned.

“And covered up the history, too,” mentioned “CBS Saturday Morning” co-host Michelle Miller.

“Yep, they tried to erase it!”

Green’s new e-book is titled “The Devil’s Half Acre: The Untold Story of How One Woman Liberated the South’s Most Notorious Slave Jail.”

Seal Press


That slave business earned Richmond the nickname “Wall Street of the South.” Green mentioned, “After the transatlantic slave trade ended in 1808, a domestic slave trade that was already in place became more apparent. Jails emerged because people needed somewhere to keep these enslaved people prior to sale,” earlier than they may very well be marched to the Lower South.

The Richmond slave jail was owned and operated by Robert Lumpkin, a dealer, Green mentioned, who was identified for being “incredibly evil, incredibly violent. Not only did he hold enslaved people in his jail, but he also offered to punish them, essentially torture them, for a fee.”

He owned Mary, too, imprisoned her, and fathered her 5 youngsters — the primary she bore on the age of 13.

“There were so many interviews with enslaved people that echoed her experiences, so many enslaved women recounting being sexually abused by their owners,” mentioned Green. “And so, I was able to use the documentation of experiences of other enslaved women to be able to weave that into what her experiences were.”

Like so many, Mary Lumpkin survived. And one year after the Civil War ended, Robert Lumpkin died, leaving every little thing to the woman “who resides with me.”

Green mentioned, of Mary, “She had ensured that her kids were educated. She had ensured that they were freed, she had freed herself, and that she had later inherited this jail, this violent place, and enabled it to become one of America’s first HBCUs.”

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Journalist Kristen Green’s new e-book tells the story of Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman who would later remodel a infamous slave jail in Richmond following the Civil War.

CBS News


That’s as a result of, by 1867, she’d leased the outdated jail to Baptist minister Dr. Nathaniel Colver, who turned it into a spiritual faculty for newly-freed Black individuals. The Devil’s Half Acre then turned “God’s Half Acre,” and by 1899, one thing extra: Virginia Union University, now just some miles down the street. 

“Our founding mother, Mary Lumpkin, represents for us what it means to experience America today,” VUU president Dr. Hakim Lucas mentioned.

Lucas acknowledged Lumpkin with a cornerstone, and named a road in her honor. “To allow her legacy to be known for providing a jail as a place for education and empowerment is the story that we’re constantly shaping for our students,” he mentioned.

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CBS News


Over the final twenty years, activists have launched the restoration efforts of a burial floor and slave path, one that traces the pressured migration into the Deep South.

Virginia State Delegate Delores McQuinn has been a steward, maintaining Mary Lumpkin’s reward in perspective. 

“The first elected African-American governor [Douglas Wilder] came out there,” McQuinn mentioned. “We have mayors, we have leaders and pastors, men and women who also went to Virginia Union University, including myself.”

For Green, connecting the long-lost branches of the Lumpkin household tree was a problem as a result of so many had escaped racism by means of the generations by denying their birthright. “All I had was descendants who didn’t know anything about her and who couldn’t necessarily connect to her story because they had lived as white,” Green mentioned.

But then, simply earlier than ending her e-book, Green discovered Dr. Carolivia Herron, a Howard University professor, and great-great-granddaughter of Mary Lumpkin. 

And whereas Herron takes delight in one ancestor, she arms herself in opposition to the disgrace she feels for the opposite. “I hate the fact that I’m his descendant,” she mentioned of Robert Lumpkin. She then labored at discovering an outlet for what she termed progressive anger. “I had to put the anger somewhere,” she mentioned.

For Green, it comes right down to that widespread humanity all of us share, which (as she writes to start with of “Devil’s Half Acre”) she hyperlinks to Mary Lumpkin: “Before she was anything else, Mary Lumpkin was someone’s daughter. Before she was the mother of a slave trader’s children and a woman seeking freedom for herself and her descendants, she was an innocent baby girl.”

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