The creator of a slave-trade map used by Richmond officials says it’s not accurate and should not be used to justify the construction of a new Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) ballpark in Shockoe Bottom.
A map of Shockoe Bottom slave-trade sites was created in 2000 by Richmond historian Elizabeth Cann Kambourian. She’s updated the map several times in the meantime after presenting it to the Slave Trail Commission, but the original map is being used by the city in its argument that the new ballpark would not impact a historic site. This month she raised objections to the city use of the map, saying it doesn’t reflect current scholarship and wants to see it withdrawn from the public view, as set out in this statement:
Assorted mistakes have been perpetuated with this rough document that was obtained from me. In the years since, I have fleshed out the locations of slave traders, and most importantly, deleted those who could not be confirmed as slave dealers. (Davenport, for instance, though his building at 15th and Main is proudly shoved down the public’s throat as a “bona fide” slave dealer’s establishment. The poor man was a grocer and dry goods merchant!
The Slave Trail literature says the stone masonry at the Burial Ground for Negroes is part of the original “GALLOWS” on which Gabriel and his co-conspirators were hanged — this in spite of the fact that I explained to the STC member in 2000, that the title search indicated it was a 20th century structure, and furthermore it was full of dynamite holes where the granite had been quarried, and therefore couldn’t be a 17-18th century structure as dynamite wasn’t invented until the 1870s.
I want the Slave Trail Commission and their cohorts to cease and desist using my erroneous preliminary map of the slave trade district. It is being used without my permission, and in fact, with my clear and explicit demands in the past that they stop.
If anyone is interested in documented truth about what is in the footprint of the proposed Stadium, I am willing to make it available to a RELIABLE individual.
Fair enough, although it’s not clear why she doesn’t just release an updated map as a way to counter the incorrect information. You’d think that if the ballpark site was directly linked to the slave trade Kambourian and other ballpark opponents would want that information to be made public.
Whether this actually changes anything remains to be seen: the problem with saying a map shouldn’t be used without an authoritative alternative in place muddies the situation. When the city says the ballpark won’t be built on a slave-trade site, opponents still have no evidence that statement is incorrect. Will the ballpark be placed directly on a slave-trade site? No one knows, but it’s not enough to say that it might be built on one: most citizens are not going to be persuaded by this. There are some very real issues here — the appropriateness of a large-scale development on a former slave-trade site, the economics of the project, the move of baseball from The Boulevard to Shockoe Bottom — but sideshows like this really add little to the discussion.
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