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There's Other History We've Paved Over

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Your story chronicling the circumstances surrounding the history of the parking lot at 14th and Cary streets was both apt and timely ("The Most Important Parking Lot," Cover Story, Nov. 15).

Indeed, the Statute for Religious Freedom, signed into law on that spot in 1786, has affected every thread in the fabric of American life since that auspicious date. The idea that everyone should be free to follow the dictates of his or her own conscience regarding matters of faith was indeed revolutionary for the times.

Upon reading the story, one cannot help being reminded of another space, located just a few blocks from the long-demolished Virginia State Capitol in Shockoe Slip, that holds beneath its asphalt surface another vital chapter in our history.

The Burial Ground for Negroes, now a paved-over parking lot at 15th and Broad streets, was for many years not only the site of the city's gallows but also the final resting place of countless people of color, both enslaved and free, who spent their final days in the city.

Historians believe that between 300,000 and 400,000 African-Americans passed through the 50-some slave-dealers' businesses in Shockoe Valley. How many now lie in the Burial Ground for Negroes remains unknown.

Fortunately, the Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods has recently completed a study of African-American neighborhoods and their architecture, which promises to shed light on this and other stories centering on the history of black life in the capital city. The book, soon to be published and titled "Built by Blacks: African American Architecture and Neighborhoods in Richmond, Virginia," chronicles the collective lives of black Richmonders from the early 18th century, through the Jim Crow era, the days of massive resistance and the present.

Maurice Duke
Mechanicsville

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