Richmond Story: the Battle of Bloody Run

With Veteran’s Day and Native American Heritage Day not far behind us, it seems proper to recognize a colonial battle that took place in Richmond 364 years ago in the Church Hill area. This conflict shed a light on the ever-evolving and increasingly complicated relationship between colonists and native peoples, which resulted in a tragic battle and a speech before the General Assembly by Pamunkey Chief Cockacoeske.

In 1656, the Westo tribe from the Lake Erie region settled at the falls of the James River. In a region already crowded with fragile and ever-changing alliances between tribes and settlers, friction began almost immediately. The General Assembly charged Colonel Edward Hill of Shirley Plantation with peacefully removing the newcomers: “they shall first endeavour to remoove the said new come Indians without makeing warr if it may be, only in a case of their own defence.” Invoking the 1646 peace treaty that ended the Third Anglo-Powhatan War, the Assembly asked 100 men from the Pamunkey tribe to assist Hill. Pamunkey Chief Totopotomy complied with the request.

V.58.61.11, Detail from Ellyson’s Map of Richmond, 1856, The Valentine

Colonel Hill flouted the General Assembly’s instructions and ordered the Pamunkey soldiers to immediately attack the Westos. The ensuing battle was so intense that witnesses claimed a nearby creek ran red. Hill ordered his colonial soldiers to retreat, completely abandoning his native allies. Nearly all the Pamunkeys were killed, including Totopotomy. Upon his death, his wife, Cockacoeske, became chief of the Pamunkeys. She never forgot the battle or the colonists’ broken promises.

The creek at the site of the conflict was renamed Bloody Run. It flows south between what is now North 30th and 31st Streets, around Chimborazo Park, before joining Gillies Creek. The ravine between Chimborazo Hill and Libby Hill marks its old path. In the 1880s, like most creeks in city limits, it was buried and eventually incorporated into Richmond’s combined sewer system.

V.79.120.1476.02, Valley of Bloody Run, Taken From Libby Terrace, October 1955, Edith K. Shelton Collection, The Valentine

Twenty years later, in 1676, when the colonists asked for Pamunkey defense amid rising tensions with other tribes, she delivered a speech before the General Assembly, reminding them of their betrayal during the Battle of Bloody Run. She sent only twelve men. Just weeks later, Nathaniel Bacon declared himself a general in a new government. In rebellion against the governor, he marched his small army to the Pamunkey settlement on the Rappahannock River. There, he attacked the settlers’ closest ally among all the Virginia tribes. Pamunkey veterans who had fought alongside the colonists for thirty years found themselves yet again fighting against them.

The difference between history and lore often lies in the lack of nuance. When events are simplified, the true messiness of history can be lost. American Indian history has suffered from such reductive treatment. Two simple yet contradictory versions of colonist/native relations have long been accepted: either the groups are sharing a friendly Thanksgiving feast or they are at war with each other. In reality, as we can see above, the history is much more complicated.

Richmond Story: The Battle of Bloody Run

With Veteran’s Day and Native American Heritage Day not far behind us, it seems proper to recognize a colonial battle that took place in Richmond 364 years ago in the Church Hill area that directly involved veterans from the Pamunkey Tribe. This conflict sheds a light on the ever-evolving and increasingly complicated relationship between colonists and native peoples, which resulted in a tragic battle and a speech before the General Assembly by Pamunkey Chief Cockacoeske.

In 1656, the Westo tribe from the Lake Erie region settled at the falls of the James River. In a region already crowded with fragile and ever-changing alliances between tribes and settlers, friction began almost immediately. The General Assembly charged Colonel Edward Hill of Shirley Plantation with peacefully removing the newcomers: “they shall first endeavour to remoove the said new come Indians without makeing warr if it may be, only in a case of their own defence.” Invoking the 1646 peace treaty that ended the Third Anglo-Powhatan War, the Assembly asked 100 men from the Pamunkey tribe to assist Hill. Pamunkey Chief Totopotomy complied with the request.

Colonel Hill flouted the General Assembly’s instructions and ordered the Pamunkey soldiers to immediately attack the Westos. The ensuing battle was so intense that witnesses claimed a nearby creek ran red. Hill ordered his colonial soldiers to retreat, completely abandoning his native allies. Nearly all the Pamunkeys were killed, including Totopotomy. Upon his death, his wife, Cockacoeske, became chief of the Pamunkeys. She never forgot the battle or the colonists’ broken promises.

The creek at the site of the conflict was renamed Bloody Run. It flows south between what is now North 30th and 31st Streets, around Chimborazo Park, before joining Gillies Creek. The ravine between Chimborazo Hill and Libby Hill marks its old path. In the 1880s, like most creeks in city limits, it was buried and eventually incorporated into Richmond’s combined sewer system.

V.79.120.1476.02, Valley of Bloody Run, Taken From Libby Terrace, October 1955, Edith K. Shelton Collection, The Valentine

Twenty years later, in 1676, when the colonists asked for Pamunkey defense amid rising tensions with other tribes, she delivered a speech before the General Assembly, reminding them of their betrayal during the Battle of Bloody Run. She sent only twelve men. Just weeks later, Nathaniel Bacon declared himself a general in a new government that would forcefully deal with all Indians. In rebellion against the governor, he marched his small army to the Pamunkey settlement on the Rappahannock River. There, he attacked the settlers’ closest ally among all the Virginia tribes. Pamunkey veterans who had fought alongside the colonists for thirty years found themselves yet again fighting against them.

The difference between history and lore often lies in the lack of nuance. When events are simplified, the true messiness of history can be lost. American Indian history has suffered from such reductive treatment. Two simple yet contradictory versions of colonist/native relations have long been accepted: either the groups are sharing a friendly Thanksgiving feast or they are at war with each other. In reality, as we can see above, the history is much more complicated.

Richmond Story: Black Troops at New Market Heights

Did you know that when fleeing Confederates set fire to Richmond’s warehouse district and evacuated the capital in 1865, the U.S. Colored Troops were some of the first Union soldiers to arrive? They entered a burning Richmond and are responsible for helping to extinguish the wind-spread fires that threatened to destroy the entire city.

But as usual, there’s more to explore. Only a few days after Veterans Day, join us as we take a look at this fascinating Richmond Story.

More than 180,000 Black troops served in the Civil War—comprising 10% of the Union’s forces. In and around Richmond, Black Union soldiers distinguished themselves in battle and service. They fought for what white Americans received at birth: the right to be called Americans.

In September of 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant sent Major General Benjamin F. Butler’s Army of the James to attack Confederate defenses east of Richmond. If successful, the campaign would make the capture of the Confederate capital possible. Of the 20,000 Union troops under Butler’s command, 3,000 were U.S. Colored Troops (USCT).

V.45.28.287c, The Federal Army Entering Richmond, VA. April 3, 1865, Hibbs Collection, The Valentine

President Lincoln had authorized the use of Black soldiers nearly two years before. But, despite many acts of heroism in previous battles, white commanders remained skeptical of their capabilities. The Union did not grant Black troops commanding roles or commissions—as such, they could not give orders. Thus, USCT officers were always white. General Butler, however, believed that Black troops could fight just as well as whites. And he wanted to prove it, so he ordered that a USCT division lead one of the battles. On the morning of September 29, 1864, the Black troops—some of them native Virginians—charged the Confederate earthworks at New Market Heights, just eleven miles outside of Richmond. The fighting was brutal. And though the division suffered 800 casualties in just one hour, their endurance and bravery compelled them through the enemy line to victory.

Butler had been more than right. Given the opportunity to prove their patriotism, heroism and skill, the USCTs did not disappoint. In fact, several of them did take on commanding positions during the battle after their white officers had been killed. Their performance amidst the chaos of the Battle of New Market Heights impressed the Union superior officers, who awarded fourteen Medals of Honor to the USCTs. Among the recipients were these native Virginians:

  • First Sergeant Powhatan Beaty, born in Richmond, who “Took command of his company, all the officers having been killed or wounded, and gallantly led it.”
  • Private James Gardiner, from Gloucester, who “Rushed in advance of his brigade, shot a rebel officer who was on the parapet rallying his men, and then ran him through with his bayonet.”
  • Corporal Miles James, from the Virginia Beach area, who “Having had his arm mutilated, making immediate amputation necessary, he loaded and discharged his piece with one hand and urged his men forward; this within 30 yards of the enemy’s works.”
  • Private Charles Veal, from Portsmouth, who “Seized the national colors, after 2 color bearers had been shot down close to the enemy’s works, and bore them through the remainder of the battle.”
  • 1st Sergeant Edward Ratcliff, from Yorktown, who “Commanded and gallantly led his company after the commanding officer had been killed; was the first enlisted man to enter the enemy’s works.”

V.86.153.745, Fort Harrison, Circa 1955, Richmond Chamber of Commerce Collection, The Valentine

Only sixteen Medals of Honor were awarded to Black troops during the entirety of the Civil War. Of those sixteen, fourteen of those medals were awarded to the USCTs at New Market Heights.

The Black troops who so bravely fought to penetrate Richmond’s defenses were subsequently garrisoned at nearby Fort Harrison, also captured during Butler’s campaign. The fort, now a unit of Richmond National Battlefield Park, lay just eight miles from Richmond.

Richmond Story: Richmond Forward

From the Revolution to the Civil War to Reconstruction to Civil Rights, various seemingly impossible political situations have played out in Richmond. As you cast your ballot (especially for local races), be thankful you have the right to do so. After all, it was only forty eight years ago that Richmond suspended local elections. In fact, our city went five years without holding local elections at all. It’s a long story…

Before 1977, Richmond City Council members were elected at-large, meaning that in order to win, a candidate had to secure the most votes citywide. This political structure maintained neighborhood segregation and prevented Black districts from electing their own council members. But when the 1960 census revealed that Richmond’s population was 42% Black and would soon become the majority, it became clear that those wishing to maintain white political power had to update they tactics. Soon, various campaigns to maintain white control of the city took shape. The first attempt was a 1961 referendum to consolidate the city with Henrico County. Voters of both races turned it down.

By 1963, the white power structure grew increasingly desperate. The city’s 1948 charter, which banned party affiliation for Council members, turned out to be one of their main obstacles. To work around this, powerful business leaders founded a political action group called Richmond Forward. Technically run by citizens, Richmond Forward behaved exactly like a political party. They picked candidates, funded their campaigns, and promoted them as a unified bloc. During the 1964 election, they presented nine candidates to Richmond voters, who all shared a mission statement, a platform, campaign literature, campaign events, and the deep pockets of Richmond’s business elite. With the exception of former Council member Eleanor Sheppard, the Richmond Forward candidates had nearly no political experience. They largely came from real estate and banking.

Image: X.2020.03.115, Richmond Forward Pamphlet, Circa 1963, The Valentine

Six of the nine Richmond Forward candidates won the at-large election, among them Eleanor Sheppard. In their first act as a majority, they elected two of their own as mayor and vice-mayor. Quickly, Richmond Forward got to work fulfilling their campaign promises to run Richmond in a “businesslike” way. They pledged to make sure that “all city officials take a positive, helpful attitude toward the legitimate needs of business.”

Richmond Forward was careful to never use racist language. They claimed “economic development” to be the goal of annexation and large public works projects. However, Richmond Forward’s critics—including remaining independent council members—noticed that most of Richmond Forward’s members and the owners of the businesses they supported lived outside city limits. Richmond Forward’s stated priorities of building more expressways, parking lots, the Coliseum and even a mall downtown would require the demolition of thousands of mostly Black-owned city homes, all in an effort to make Richmond more accessible to and profitable for white suburbanites.  In the late 1960s, Richmond Forward literally cleared the way for the Downtown Expressway and expansions of I-95 and I-64. The historic Black neighborhood of Navy Hill was wiped off the map to build a connector between the two highways and the Coliseum. A thousand families were displaced, with some finally resettling in public housing.

By 1965, Richmond’s population outpaced predictions, with Black residents making up 52% of the population. That year, Richmond Forward revived efforts to annex parts of Henrico County. When the plan failed again, the group grew even more desperate. During the 1968 election, incumbent Richmond Forward councilman James Wheat, Jr. said blatantly that without annexation, “Richmond will become a permanent black ghetto.” In 1968 and 1969, the group poured its resources into promoting the ultimately successful annexation of 23 square miles of Chesterfield County, which took effect in 1970. Richmond suddenly gained 47,000 more residents, 97% of whom were white. Overnight, the city became 42% Black again.

Image: V.85.37.420, New City Council Members Share a Laugh, March 18, 1977, Richmond Times-Dispatch Collection, The Valentine

Ironically, the 1970 annexation that was supposed to save Richmond’s white majority backfired. That same year, mandated busing became law. Almost immediately, the 47,000 new citizens of Richmond realized that they would now have to send their children to integrated schools. Thus, many white families fled Chesterfield, dwindling the slim majority. The annexation also prompted a Voting Rights Act lawsuit that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which handed down an injunction, prohibiting Richmond from holding local elections until the case was decided.  Richmond went from 1972 until 1977—five years— without local elections. In their eventual decision, the justices found Richmond’s at-large Council elections discriminatory. The city was forced to switch to a ward system, in which separate districts each elect one council member. In 1977, the first first local elections held in five years, Black candidates won a majority on City Council for the first time in the city’s history. The Council then proceeded to elect Henry Marsh III as Richmond’s first Black mayor. Overnight, The majority of Richmonders had finally won majority representation.

Richmond Story: Belle Isle Prison

The fictional, Halloween-inspired terror of zombies and monsters seems quaint in comparison to the very real horrors of war that have unfolded in and around our city. But while we are generally familiar with many of these images, during the Civil War, often soldiers feared prison more than they feared the battlefield. Fifty-six thousand soldiers died in captivity during the four years of conflict. In fact, Richmond was home to one prison in particular that gained a national reputation for its inhumane conditions. While Libby Prison housed captured Union officers, Belle Isle Prison mostly incarcerated common soldiers.

By the summer of 1862, Richmond had become overpopulated with prisoners of war. In response, the Confederate government purchased Belle Isle. The 54-acre island was meant to be a temporary solution, and so no structures were actually built. Three-foot-high earthworks enclosed a 6-acre space. It was all that was needed, as the surrounding rapids served as a good deterrent against escape. Prisoners lived in flimsy pole tents—10 men to a tent—without adequate shelter from rain or cold. Officers and guards did have proper quarters nearby. Two months into operation, a new commandant arrived to oversee operations. His name was Captain Henry Wirz, a doctor with a reputation for strictness who only made things worse.

V.66.26.29, Belle Isle Prison Camp, Circa 1863, The Valentine

Under Wirz, all prisoner privileges were revoked. Within a year, the population of Belle Isle Prison grew to double its capacity. Approximately 7,000 men, still living in tents, suffered through a brutal 1863 winter. In December, a smallpox outbreak added to the misery as an estimated 14 men froze to death each night.

Dysentery, typhoid and pneumonia raged through the prison population. Additionally, as supplies in Richmond deteriorated due to blockades, rations dwindled to starvation portions. Conditions became so bad that the Northern media began using the prison as a propaganda tool against the Confederates.

Of the 20,000 men incarcerated there, almost 1,000 died at Belle Isle, which was only in operation for 18 months. At its most crowded, 10,000 Union soldiers inhabited the 6-acre space—a tenth of the island’s actual size—at one time. In February 1864, the temporary prison finally closed, and its remaining population was transferred to Andersonville, Georgia. Nearly all the transferred men weighed under 100 pounds at the time. Wirz followed them to command the new facility. There, 13,000 Union soldiers would die under his supervision, far more than on any single battlefield during the war. Afterward, Wirz became the only Confederate charged with war crimes during the Civil War and was eventually executed for his cruel treatment of prisoners.

Richmond Story: the Lily White Ticket and the Lily Black Ticket

With our upcoming Controversy/History event on Tuesday, October 6 exploring the impact of 2020 on voting, this week’s Richmond Story blog focuses on another moment in our city’s history where issues of voting, race and power converged in surprising and transformational ways.

In the early-20th century, Virginia’s Republican party was not faring well in state elections. Not only did the progressive party of Lincoln have a hard time courting the votes of resentful Confederates, but they had also lost a key demographic. In the rewritten 1902 state constitution, the conservative Democrats had willfully disenfranchised a large percentage of black male voters. By 1920, with white women enfranchised and so many Blacks unable to vote, the Republicans gained little in courting the Black vote or campaigning on racial progress as they had in the past. For these reasons, the Democratic Party had routinely and successfully attacked the Republicans as “the party of the Negro.” Virginia voters responded to racial fear and racial hypocrisy, both cultivated in offensive, racist political cartoons like the one shown below:

“What the Negro is Good For”, Undated cartoon, FIC.01409, The Valentine

In 1920, state Republican leaders decided that in order to win, they needed to establish a “lily white” image. At their state conventions in 1920 and 1921, the Lily White Republicans barred black voters from attendance. Black delegates were not seated in 1921. Racial justice did not make it onto the platform. In response, 600 Black delegates met in Richmond on September 5, 1921, and nominated their own Republican candidates for state office—all Black.

John Mitchell, Jr., Undated, P.77.08, The Valentine

What came to be called the Lily Black Republican Ticket included two Richmonders. John Mitchell, Jr. headed the ticket as the candidate for governor. Maggie Walker—just a year after gaining the right to vote herself—ran for state superintendent of public instruction. Though they knew they had no chance of winning, the 1921 Lily Black Republicans insisted that they represented the true Republican Party. Mitchell did his best to court Republicans of both races, unlike the official Lily White Republicans. Nevertheless, all of the Lily Black candidates lost. In fact, none of the Lily White Republicans won, either. The Democrats swept the election that year.

Over the course of the next decade, for these and other racist tactics, the few Black voters who were not prevented from voting or disillusioned with their choices began to largely abandon the party of Lincoln.

Tenth Season of Controversy/History Returns to Address 2020’s Impact

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 23, 2020

Contact:
Eric Steigleder
Director of Communications
esteigleder@thevalentine.org

Tenth Season of Controversy/History Returns to Address 2020’s Impact

RICHMOND – The Valentine’s popular conversation series will return virtually on Tuesday, October 6, co-hosted by Valentine Director Bill Martin and Coffee with Strangers host Kelli Lemon. The free, five-event series will focus on the evolving impacts of 2020, a year full of unexpected challenges and uncomfortable conversations, all amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic and massive social change.

“The Richmond community that entered 2020 is not the same community we find ourselves a part of today,” Valentine Director Martin said. “2020 has truly been a year of historic change, and it only makes sense to use our conversation series Controversy/History to examine those changes, how they have impacted the people of the Richmond Region and what we can do as a community to move forward together.”

Each virtual event will include an exciting lineup of guest speakers discussing contemporary issues and how 2020 has either upended or reinforced Richmond’s history, followed by questions from the audience and action steps for those inspired to get involved.

Here is a complete list of dates and topics:

October 6, 2020, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2020 and Voting

November 3, 2020, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2020 and Mental Health

December 1, 2020, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2020 and Business

January 5, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2021 and Education

February 2, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2021 and Activism

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About the Valentine
The Valentine has been collecting, preserving and interpreting Richmond’s 400-year history for over a century. Located in the heart of historic downtown, the Valentine is a place for residents and tourists to discover the diverse stories that tell the broader history of this important region. https://thevalentine.org/

Richmond Story: Edgar Allan Poe

As we pass the six-month mark of social distancing, economic disaster and an uncertain future, it seems fitting to use this week’s Richmond story to openly acknowledge these difficulties. Though months of bread baking, home improvements, online happy hours, exercise regimens and other optimistic efforts have sustained many of us, perhaps it is healthy from time to time to indulge in a bit of wallowing. In that, there is no better guide than one of our most famous Richmonders: Edgar Allan Poe. Poe was no stranger to loneliness, financial trouble and depression.  He even invented a new literary genre that aimed to inspire dread in its simplest, shortest and purest form.

X.50.01.301, Edgar Allan Poe, 1840s, The Valentine

Poe was born in 1809 to parents who were both travelling actors. When he was just two years old, his mother died of tuberculosis in Richmond, while acting in a local company. Poe’s father, from whom his mother was estranged, died soon after. Poe’s mother was buried at St. John’s Church in Richmond, and a local childless couple, John and Frances Allan, adopted the orphaned toddler. A tobacco merchant, Allan hoped that his adopted son would eventually take over his business. But Poe, from an early age, was determined to be a poet. Allan paid for Poe’s first year at the University of Virginia, but the young poet accumulated gambling debts and seemed aimless. His adoptive father cut him off financially, the first of many times over the course of Poe’s life. Shortly after this blow, Poe’s fiancée, Sarah Elmira Royster of Church Hill, gave into parental pressure and abandoned him to marry a wealthy man.

Poe left Richmond in 1826 heartbroken, though he continued to write. After publishing his first book, he remained unable to support himself and so tried brief stints in the Army, then West Point, from which he was expelled. All the while, John Allan sometimes helped his ward financially, only cutting him off again for misbehavior.

April 12, 1833 letter from E.A. Poe to John Allan, Poe-Allan-Ellis Papers, The Valentine

In 1831 while living in Baltimore, Poe began to attract notice as a writer. But he was still struggling financially and periodically wrote home to Allan for money. These letters, some archived here at the Valentine, went without reply. In 1835, he was offered the job of assistant editor at the Southern Literary Messenger, a new literary magazine based in Richmond. He took it, and so returned to this city. Despite a clear drinking problem that fueled professional clashes, his brilliance stood out. Poe was soon promoted to editor. Under his leadership, the Messenger became successful. He used the journal not only to publish his poems and short stories, but also wrote humorous and often brutal literary criticism. Few authors were spared. Poe left the Messenger and Richmond in 1837, for literary pursuits northward.

In 1839, Poe published The Fall of the House of Usher. In 1845, The Raven was unleashed. As his writing darkened, however, his personal life darkened as well. His relentless criticism of other writers, the death of his wife, his defiant personality and the financial bankruptcy of his own journal in New York left him alienated, unable to publish, destitute, depressed and grieving. He accumulated debts. In 1849, he returned to Richmond to give a reading and lecture on The Raven.  The homecoming provided him the opportunity to change his life when he reunited with the recently widowed and now-wealthy fiancée who had jilted him 23 years before. He seized it. Poe decided to marry his beloved Elmira at last and return to life here. But the move never happened. Just weeks after deciding to turn this new, optimistic page, amidst his arrangements to move back to Richmond, Poe was found unconscious outside of a tavern in Baltimore. He died in a hospital four days later. The previous few months had taken their toll on Poe, so much so that scholars have multiple theories as to how he met his end.

He was only 40 years old, but Poe transformed the alienation and despair that defined his life into a literary legacy that still inspires dread (in a good way) today.

Richmond Story: The Knights of Labor

In 1882 and 1883, a nationwide economic slump led to layoffs across the country. Many of these layoffs became permanent, even as the economy recovered due to industries replacing more and more workers with machinery. Against this mass industrialization, traditional small craft unions found few victories. In Richmond, like in most American cities, small craft unions were nothing new. Organized by trade, however, they were limited in size and thus limited in power. There were only so many quarry workers or so many foundry workers in a single city. Many felt powerless against the mass scale of industrialization.

V.92.68.03, Proposition for Membership in the Order of the Knights of Labor, c. 1885, The Valentine

A new labor model was needed to address the changing economic landscape. That model could be found in the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor. Founded in 1869, it slowly evolved and expanded its mission and leadership so that by 1879, it was poised to harness the rising frustrations of the working class. This union revolutionized the labor movement by inducting members regardless of trade. Anyone could join: iron workers, typographers, cigar makers, granite cutters, mill workers, barbers, builders, textile workers. With sheer numbers, the Knights could match the power of what they called “the great capitalists.”

In April of 1884, the Knights of Labor spread to Richmond. Eleven white workers established “The Eureka Assembly.” At first, they struggled to gain more members. Corporate interests were strong and leaders exploited racial tensions within the working class to maintain power. But by the fall of 1884, Black workers had formed a few of their own assemblies. They could not be official Knights, however, without a charter, which they needed from the local white organizer. By that time, eight white assemblies had been established in the city. Fierce debate between them ensued. Some members were in favor of integrating the union, while some opposed the idea. The organizer, Charles Miller, wrote to the national office outlining the dilemma. Terence Powderly, the General Master Workman of the Knights, and possibly the most famous labor activist in the country at the time, did not reply to the letter. Instead, he came to Richmond.

He arrived in late January of 1885 and stayed for two days. In those two days, he held two meetings. In the first, open only to white members, he discussed the inclusive structure needed to not just address larger local issues, but to apply political pressure and to secure victories for workers. Powderly told the group:

“We organize the colored workers into separate assemblies, working under the same laws and enjoying the same privileges as their white brethren… The politicians have kept the white and black men of the South apart, while crushing both. Our aim shall be to educate both and elevate them by bringing them together.”

V.93.108.02, Tenth Annual Convention of the Knights of Labor, Held at the First Regiment Armory, Richmond. General Master Worksman Powderly Addressing the Convention, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. October 16, 1886, The Valentine

The next evening, he presided over a much larger meeting at the Old First Market Hall, at 17th and Main Streets. This meeting was open to everyone: Black and white, men and women, members and non-members. It was packed. There, he announced this separate but equal structure, quite radical for the time in Richmond. Never before here had Black and white workers belonged to the same union. The enthusiasm of the crowd was so great, Powderly later recalled that “I organized an assembly of colored men at the conclusion of the meeting.” After Powderly’s visit, membership to the Knights of Labor exploded in Richmond. Even the women were inspired to organize for the first time in this city’s history, forming an assembly of white women cigarette makers.

By retaining maximum flexibility for both membership and regional prejudices, the Knights of Labor drew in the numbers needed to fight rising corporate power. Of course, because of this flexibility, many things did not change for Black workers in their segregated assemblies and more serious divisions persisted. But Black and white workers did, for the first time in Richmond, exert political pressure as one. As membership boomed, the Knights held boycotts against offending businesses. One of their first actions as an “integrated” union was to take up the cause of Richmond’s coopers—a trade unique at the time for not being dominated by one race. Forced to compete with free convict labor, Black and white coopers struggled to make a living. In the summer of 1885, the Knights declared a boycott on the Haxall-Crenshaw flour mill in defense of the coopers, which bought convict-made barrels. Right away, they took on one of the biggest and oldest businesses in Richmond. By the end of the year, the Knights won. With that, thousands of white Richmonders were compelled to, and did, join a boycott that benefited poor Black workers—a feat nearly unimaginable in 1880s Richmond.

The Valentine Opens Richmond History Makers Nominations During a Year of Historic Transformation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 8, 2020

Contact: Eric Steigleder
Director of Communications
esteigleder@thevalentine.org

The Valentine Opens Richmond History Makers Nominations During a Year of Historic Transformation

The sixteenth annual program will punctuate months of tremendous change across the Richmond Region

RICHMOND — In the midst of an historic moment in our community, the Valentine will open nominations for the 2021 Richmond History Makers & Community Update today. The program honors individuals and organizations making substantive and lasting contributions to the Greater Richmond region.

“We have seen so many Richmonders directly confront the challenges that have come to exemplify the past several months,” said Valentine Director Bill Martin. “During such an unprecedented time, there are even more individuals and organizations making history, and we look forward to receiving nominations that support their bold work.”

The Valentine will again partner with the Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond to highlight the work of six honorees and provide an update on those making a positive impact across the region. The six honorees will be recognized at a community celebration March 9, 2021. Long-time Richmond History Makers sponsor Dominion Energy is returning as the title sponsor.

“We are excited to once again partner with the Valentine for this important program,”  said Scott Blackwell, Chief Community Engagement Officer with the Community Foundation. “At a time when we see so many doing so much, we look forward to shining a spotlight on those whose actions today will impact the community for years to come.”

“Leadership Metro Richmond is a longtime partner in this important endeavor, and we look forward to partnering for the sixteenth year,” said LMR President & CEO Myra Goodman Smith. “‘Making history’ has taken on a whole new meaning during this transformative moment in our community, and we look forward to engaging with those individuals and organizations helping to shape our future in new and exciting ways.”

Nominations for the 2021 Richmond History Makers & Community Update will be accepted September 8 through October 28. You can learn more about the program, view past honorees and nominate your own Richmond history maker at RichmondHistoryMakers.com.

Additional information, including the status of the celebration on March 9, will be determined after the new year. The Valentine is committed to ensuring a safe and engaging event for our honorees, guests and the public.

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About the Valentine
The Valentine has been collecting, preserving and interpreting Richmond’s 400-year history for over a century. Located in the heart of historic downtown, the Valentine is a place for residents and tourists to discover the diverse stories that tell the broader history of this important region. https://thevalentine.org/

About the Community Foundation
The Community Foundation is a leading partner and advocate for philanthropy and service in the Richmond region. Founded in 1968, the Community Foundation has built a strong legacy of helping people and institutions give back with passion and purpose. https://www.cfrichmond.org/

About Leadership Metro Richmond
Leadership Metro Richmond (LMR) is the region’s community leadership development and engagement organization. Over 2,000 diverse leaders have participated in LMR’s 10-month leadership development program, Leadership Quest. LMR provides leaders with an environment for high-performing conversations, broadens their knowledge and perspectives about the region, and inspires them to serve first then lead. http://www.lmronline.org/