About the Sacred Ground Project

A project of the Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality, the Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project was established in December 2004, following the unveiling of the state historical marker "Gabriel's Rebellion," at 15th and E. Broad streets in Shockoe Bottom, Richmond, Virginia. We were inspired by the descendant-community centered work being done on the New York African Burial Ground and the way that reclaiming historic sites and stories empowers and energizes individuals and communities to assert their rights to determine how their cultural resources, and their lives, are valued and cared for.

Our purpose, in 2004, was twofold: 

  1. To amplify the story of Gabriel, a young Virginia-born African man (1776-1800), known for his leading role in a well-organized plan to overthrow slavery in Virginia.  
  2. And to build awareness of the existance of the "Burial Ground for Negroes" - Richmond's first municipal cemetery (1799-1816) for the burials of the city's Black residents, both enslaved and free.

The Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project uses public history to serve social justice through research, recovery and advocacy of lost or devalued sites of historical significance in our communities, especially those that exemplify struggles against oppression and for liberation during the periods of colonization, slavery, racism and segregation in the USA. 

This work has led to our contributions to conference, university lectures, historic preservation collaborations, and community campaigns, including  

  • Reclaiming Richmond's African Burial Ground (Preservation, Historic site, Social justice)
  • Gabriel Gathering (annual commemoration on October 10 since 2002)
  • No Stadium in the Bottom (Preservation, Urban Development)
  • Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park Proposal (The Shockoe Project)
  • Virginia Friends of Mali, Sister Cities: Richmond and Segou, Mali
  • East Marshall Street Well Project, Planning Committee, Oral History Project
  • Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground, Consultant on Community Engagement
  • Truth and Conciliation in the 400th Year: A Shockoe Bottom Public History Symposium

As if you had just tapped the center of a spider's web, the reverberations of these two intertwined projects has clearly led to many others and to the changing of Richmond's public history landscape and to the social acceptability of discussing and challenging white supremacist ideas embedded in the physical places of that city. You can learn more by exploring this website. Click a tab in the menu above to begin. 

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