What 2019 means for RVA
Next year  will mark 400 years since the first arrival of enslaved Africans to US shores. For Richmond, Virginia--the capital of the former Confederate States of America and among the most prominent auction and transport hubs in the US trade in enslaved Africans--the moment of 2019 becomes even more powerful because there is information available that identifies from where on the African continent came the first group of enslaved Africans to inhabit the Greater Richmond area after the city’s founding.
Per UK and US shipping records and historical archives, Two years after Richmond's founding in 1737, nearly 400 enslaved Africans came to the Greater Richmond area directly from Ouidah, a port city in the Republic of Benin in West Africa, aboard the Anna. The Anna’s captain, James Stratchan, allegedly hails from Midlothian, Scotland, which shares a name with one of Richmond’s largest suburbs (...and where I grew up). Two months after the Anna’s arrival, over 100 enslaved Africans arrived to the Greater Richmond area directly from the Gambia, West Africa’s smallest country.
Today, Ouidah is re-emerging as a focal point for cultural memory tourism and technological innovation as a centerpiece of Benin's five-year economic growth plan, Revealing Benin, spearheaded by President Patrice Talon. President Talon won the Mandela Institute Governance Prize last year for his work advancing Benin’s as a model of stable democracy in sub-Saharan Africa. In the Gambia, President Adama Barrow recently replaced among the most brutal dictatorships in the world, which lasted over 22 years. President Barrow is positioning the Gambia as among the world’s fastest-growing economies.Richmond Revealed seeks to illuminate these histories and opportunities across the Atlantic by working toward three overarching objectives:
- To raise awareness of Richmond’s direct ties to specific places across West Africa, stemming from around the time of Richmond’s founding, by promoting educational and cultural exchange. Promoting travel to Benin and the Gambia in 2019 is a top priority.
- To facilitate bilateral investments between Richmond and certain African economies, which should create new drivers of growth and diversify Richmond’s entrepreneurial landscape
- To showcase leadership across Richmond’s government, non-profit and business sectors, which all work to empower Richmonders to more richly engage with our city’s history.
To learn more about the initiative, we invite you to Richmond Revealed’s first Community Luncheon on Saturday, June 9, at the Richmond Public Library (101 E Franklin St, Richmond, VA 23219) from 11AM to 1PM.
Considering today’s polarizing political climate around historical memory and Confederate monuments in particular, the time to launch an initiative like Richmond Revealed is now. Considering the unprecedented political will [on both sides of the Atlantic] to lean into these histories and their complicated legacies...
Richmond is ready.