The mission of The American Civil War Museum 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.
Representatives from Liverpool, UK, and West Africa gathered in Richmond, VA, on March 30, 2007, for the unveiling of this statue, the result of ten years of effort to create a reconciliation triangle between Liverpool, England, Benin, West Africa, and Richmond. One of these statues stands in each place. Richmond was the second largest slave trading site in the nation, ranking only below New Orleans. It is estimated that some 300,000 slaves passed through Richmond—many being sold “south” or “down river.” By 1860, 4 million dollars a year was being made from the exportation of slaves. The City Directory listed 69 traders, auctioneers, or agents listed. Additionally, businesses not directly connected with the slave trade flourished, providing food, clothing, medical care and insurance. While slaves were jailed in the area near Lumpkin’s, many of the auctions were held near here. One of the earliest slave trading sites was Bell Tavern, which stood on the opposite side of the street. Just south of us stood the St. Charles Hotel where dealers had their offices and held auctions. North of us was the prestigious Exchange Hotel and not far from it Odd Fellows hall—both of which had auction rooms. In fact, the last sale of slaves most likely occurred at Odd Fellows Hall on April 1. There, using the Richmond Whig as his mouthpiece, Mr. S.N. Davis announced he would sell at auction “twenty likely negroes.” The next day, the city of Richmond was evacuated by the Confederate government. As they army pulled out, they set fire to warehouses filled with tobacco and other supplies. Early on the morning of April 3, Union troops thundered into town down Main Street. The following day, Lincoln arrived. A he made his way down Franklin Street, he passed by the Exchange Hotel. Whether or not he knew it was a site of slave auctions is unknown, but the throng of freedmen that had formed around him certainly was aware of this as they eagerly welcomed the “Great Emancipator.” It would be a 142 years before the Virginia General Assembly voted to express “profound regret” for the state’s role in the slave trade.