Today, we all stand on the shoulders of many freed and enslaved Black Richmonders and while the list of giants who undoubtedly helped future generations to see further is vast, The JXN Project hopes that the proposed set of designees are a representative sample of the rested and readied. In that same spirit, while only a chosen few can receive honorary street designations, the project endeavors to find alternate ways to pay homage to the many who were called to leave a mark on Jackson Ward.
The honorary street designations will intersect with the hidden histories of current street names that bare the namesake of enslavers and|or pro-slavery sympathizers and soldiers, such as Benjamin Watkins Leigh, Isaac Judah, and John Prentis. For example, Leigh Street is named after Benjamin Watkins Leigh who was a pro-slavery sympathizer that censored anti-slavery petitions and periodicals, as well as married into the Wickhams – descendants from one of the “first families of Virginia” who were enslavers and sided with the Confederacy. Moreover, his namesake was a soldier in the Confederate Army who enslaved 34 people and married into a family that enslaved another 93 Black Virginians. Judah Street is the namesake of Isaac Judah who father a set of "mulatto" boys and enslaved at least 2 women named Maria and Betsey, who he willed into hired out slavery upon his death for another 15 years. Most egregious of all is Prentis Street, which is named after John Prentis, who despite hailing from a family who enslaved at least 8 people, initially opposed the institution of slavery, but for the sake of capitalist venture, would become one of the city's most prominent enslavers – also fathering a "mulatto" child. Prentis was especially notorious because his business model centered around the disruption of Black families, often purchasing enslaved people in the upper south – with intentions to resell in the deep south for larger profits. He operated a slaveholding facility on then Prentis Alley, which he later used to primarily trade enslaved “fancy” women for sexual commodification.
ABRAHAM SKIPWITH ALLEY
Judah Street from Leigh Street to Duval Street
Abraham Skipwith was a freed Black Richmonder, who purchased his own freedom for forty pounds in 1789 and soon thereafter own one of the earliest dwellings in what would become Jackson Ward. The gambrel-roofed cottage, which was built after he purchased a plot of land in 1793, was located on the western edge of the ward at 400 West Duval Street. In 1797, he willed the cottage to his wife, which was later inherited by his granddaughter Maria Roper and remained in his family’s ownership until 1905. However, he wasn’t the only freed Black Richmonder to own property during the antebellum area in or near what was known as “Little Africa”, which spanned from West Leigh Street on the 200 to 400 blocks of Duval Street. These homes included 827 Second Street, which was purchased by a barber named
George P. Gray and 227 West Leigh Street, which was built in 1846 by John Adams who was a plasterer, as well as 221 and 223 West Leigh Street, which were built in 1856 by Sophia Hill and Catherine Harris – after purchasing the land from a freed biracial resident named Keesey Boubee.
A.D. PRICE AVENUE
3rd Street from Leigh Street to Jackson Street
Alfred D. Price was born in 1860 and was raised in Hanover County, Virginia. He settled in Richmond, Virginia in the late 1870s and opened up several real estate investments and businesses including a blacksmith shop, livery stable, and funeral home in Jackson Ward called A.D. Price Funeral Establishment. He served as president of the Southern Aid Society of Virginia and as a board member with the Mechanics Savings Bank. He would become one of the first funeral directors to receive a state embalming license in 1894. He departed on April 9, 1921 and is buried at Evergreen Cemetery – and his son, A.D. Price Jr, continued the legacy of the funeral home.
BILL "BOJANGLES" ROBINSON BOULEVARD
Leigh Street from Belt Boulevard to 3rd Street
Bill [Luther] Robinson was born on May 25, 1878 in Jackson Ward in Richmond, Virginia to Maxwell and Maria Robinson – earning the nickname “Bojangles” as a child. At five years old, he began performing in local minstrel shows before relocating to Washington, DC in 1890. The following year, he was hired by Whallen and Martel to tour with Mayme Remington in a show called The South Before The War. He briefly joined the US Army before continuing to tour with vaudeville shows and becoming one of the first performers to break the circuit’s “two-coloured rule”, which prevented solo Black acts. He became known as the “Father of Tapology” after introducing the style of dancing “up on the toes” to tap dance, as well as popularizing the stair dance. He gained national acclaim after starring in several stage revues on Broadway and appearing in over a dozen films – making history as the performer to have an interracial dance partner in a motion picture. In 1936, he co-founded the New York Black Yankees as part of the Negro National League. He had two prior marriages before meeting his third wife, Elaine Plaines, to whom he married in 1944 and with who he remained with until his death on November 25, 1949. His remains laid in repose at the 369th Infantry Regiment Armory in Harlem, New York, where an estimated 32,00 visitors paid their respects before being buried at the Cemetery of the Evergreens in New York. In 1973, a bronze statue of his likeness was erected in Robinson Square, which had been sponsored by the Astoria Beneficial Club – and is located at the intersection where he personally paid to install a traffic light to ensure the safety of neighborhood children in the crosswalk. In 1987, he was inducted into the National Museum of Dance Hall of Fame and two years later the US Senate declared “National Tap Dance Day” to commemorate his birthday.
CHARLES GILPIN CROSSING
St. James Street from Charity Street to Hill Street
Charles Sidney Gilpin was born on November 20, 1878 in Jackson Ward to Peter Gilpin and Caroline White. He attended St. Frances School until 12 years old and apprenticed at the Richmond Planet until 1893 – before leaving Richmond, Virginia to join a minstrel and vaudeville show. In 1903, he joined the Canadian Jubilee Singers, which was pattern after the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Over the course of his career, he toured with the Red Cross, Candy Shop of America, Pan-American Octetts, Old Man’s Boy Company, and Anita Bush Players – with his most notable roles being Remus Boreland in The Black Politician, Jacob McCloskey in The Octoroon, Reverend William Curtis in Abraham Lincoln, and Brutus Jones in The Emperor Jones on Broadway, which would be his final major role after a disagreement over the playwright’s refusal to remove the word “nigger” from the script. He founded the Pekin Stock Company and was the first Black actor to be honored by the Drama League in 1920 – followed by the NAACP Spingarn Medal in 1921 and honors by President Warren G. Harding. He married three times before departing on May 6, 1930 and being buried in an unmarked grave in Woodlawn Cemetery in New York. In 1991, he was posthumously inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.
GILES B. JACKSON WALK
Clay Street from 2nd Street to 3rd Street
Giles Beecher Jackson was born enslaved on September 10, 1853 in Goochland County to James and Hulda Jackson. In 1874, he married Sarah Wallace before studying law and becoming the first Black attorney certified to practice law before the Virginia Supreme Court in 1887. In 1900, he was appointed as vice president of the National Negro Business League by Booker T. Washington. In 1901, as part of the inauguration festivities, President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned him as an honorary colonel of the Third Civic Division, which was a Black calvary unit. In 1902, he formed the Negro Development and Exposition Company of the United States of America, which organized the Negro Building at the Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition in 1907 – and the following year, he published the Industrial History of the Negro Race of the United States. In 1914, he was appointed as chief of the Negro Division of the U.S. Employment Service. In 1920, he began to petition the federal government to establish a Negro Industrial Commission, but it had not been established at the time of his death on August 13, 1924. His remains were laid to rest in Evergreen Cemetery.
JOHN JASPER WAY
**Chamberlayne Avenue to Duval Street**
John Jasper was born enslaved on July 4, 1812 in Fluvanna County, Virginia to Philip and Tina Jasper but was raised on the Peachy Plantation in Williamsburg, Virginia – where he was often hired out to work in tobacco factories in Richmond. In 1839, he converted to Christianity and began his preaching career, often traveling across Central Virginia to speak before multi-racial congregations – primarily preaching at the funerals of the enslaved departed. In 1867, he founded Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church in an abandoned Confederate horse stable on Brown’s Island, which was home to several poor Black Richmonders – before relocating the church to Jackson Ward in 1869. In 1878, he first delivered his most famous speech, “De Sun Do Move”, which he preached for the last time in the year before his death. He married four times before departing on March 30, 1901. He was originally buried in Barton Heights Cemeteries [formerly known as Ham Cemetery] before the congregation decided to reintern his remains at Woodland Cemetery as a result of gentrification. In 1957, on the heels of his legacy, the church protested against the interstate highway system, which destroyed over 700 homes and split the ward into half – with the congregation refusing to move and causing the highway to bend north around the exterior of the church. In 1996, Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, which was remodeled by Charles T. Russell in 1925, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
**Please note that this street designation was previously secured by Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church.**
JOHN MITCHELL MANOR
3rd Street from Leigh Street to Clay Street
John Mitchell, Jr was born enslaved on July 11, 1863 at the Laburnum Plantation in Richmond, Virginia to John and Rebecca Mitchell. After graduating from the Richmond Normal High School, he began an apprenticeship with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, DC with the support of Frederick Douglass. In 1884, he became editor at the Richmond Planet, which lead to his appointment as president of the National Afro-American Press Association. In 1892, he was elected as a city alderman for Jackson Ward before running for governor in 1921. He founded and served as president of the Mechanics Savings Bank in 1902. During this period, he also emerged as a national anti-lynching advocate, alongside Ida B. Wells, and helped to organize one of the nation’s first bus boycotts in 1904. He departed on December 3, 1929 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.
LILLIE ESTES LANE
Charity Street from St. James Street to 1st Street
Lillie Ann Estes was born on August 6, 1960 in Hampton, Virginia to Henry and Rebecca Estes and was raised in Newport News – before relocating to Richmond to attend Virginia Commonwealth University in 1977. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in justice and public safety, she began her career in community strategy and became a leading voice in fair housing practices – using her apartment in Gilpin Court as headquarters. She founded the Charles S. Gilpin Community Farm, Community Justice Film Series, and RePHRAME, which stood for Residents of Public Housing Against Mass Eviction, and was involved with the Maggie L. Walker Initiative for Expanding Opportunity and Fighting Poverty, Virginia Poverty Law Center, Hope in the Cities, Community Justice Network, and Harvard University’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. In 2016, in addition to running for mayor, she received the Mothers of Courage Award from Mothers for Justice and Equality. She departed at 59 years old on January 31, 2019 and her life was celebrated at Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church before being laid to rest in Forest Lawn Cemetery.
LORNA PINCKNEY PLACE
2nd Street from Broad Street to Marshall Street
Lorna Pinckney was born on July 12, 19874 in Brooklyn, New York to Benjamin and Eleanor Pinckney. She attended the LaGuardia High School of Music and Art before relocating to Richmond, Virginia to attend Virginia Union University – and later Virginia Commonwealth University [VCU], where she received a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and advertising. During her time at VCU, she led the Black student union and newspaper called The Vine. She gained prominence for her open mic series, Tuesday Verses, which began at Tropical Soul – before transitioning to Addis Ethiopian. She departed on October 5, 2017 and is buried in Pinelawn Memorial Park in New York.
LUCY GOODE BROOKS SQUARE
St. John Street from Charity Street to Federal Street
Lucy Goode Brooks was born enslaved on September 13, 1818 in the Richmond, Virginia area to Judith Goode and an unidentified white man. In the late 1830s, she met another enslaved man named Albert Royal Brooks, who she would marry in 1839. Although she was held in bondage by several enslavers, one gave her permission to live with her husband, who operated a livery stable and eating house, which helped him earn enough leftover earnings to purchase some of his family's freedom – with the exception of their oldest daughter, Margaret Ann Brooks, who was sold into slavery in Tennessee. Of their nine children, some of which were subjugated to urbanized enslavement, one of their sons, Robert Peel Brooks, became one of the first Black attorneys to practice law in the city after graduating from Howard Law School in 1875 – eventually becoming secretary of the Republican State Central Committee in 1880. After the Civil War, she pioneered the plight of parentless children by founding the Friends' Asylum for Colored Orphans in 1871, which operated as an orphanage until 1932 before transitioning into a child placement agency for foster families – which today operates as a child development center called Friends Association for Children. She was also an original member of First African Baptist Church after its split from First Baptist Church in 1841. She departed on October 7, 1900 and is buried at Barton Heights Cemetery [former known as Union Mechanics Cemetery].
MAGGIE L. WALKER WAY
Broad Street from 3rd Street to Adams Street
Maggie Lena Walker [Mitchell] was born enslaved on July 15, 1864 at the estate of Elizabeth Van Lew in Richmond, Virginia to Eccles Cuthbert and Elizabeth Draper – who would later marry William Mitchell. After graduating from local public schools, she taught grade school until marrying Armstead Walker, Jr in 1886 – who would later construct the Leigh Street Armory, which is now the site of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. Before the turn of the century, she assumed leadership of the Independent Order of St. Luke, which was a fraternal society dedicated to improving the lives of Black people through economic independence. Under her leadership, she published The St. Luke Herald and became the first Black woman to charter a bank and serve as president – the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank. The Walkers purchased a home in Jackson Ward in 1904 – shortly before Armstead’s death in 1915. She departed on December 15, 1934 and is buried at Evergreen Cemetery.Memorial Park in New York.
NEVERETT EGGLESTON PLAZA
2nd Street from Leigh Street to Clay Street
Neverett Eggleston was born on September 14, 1898 in Henrico County to Richard and Cora Eggleston. After living in Newburgh, New York for a brief period, he returned to Richmond, Virginia and married Sallie Robertson in 1925. After working as a chef at the Lakeside Country Club, he opened a restaurant called the Lafayette in Jackson Ward. He began to manage the Miller’s Hotel in the late 1930s before purchasing the building and renaming it Hotel Eggleston, which was featured in the 1947 edition of The Negro Motorist Green Book. He departed on December 5, 1996 and is buried at the cemetery at Saint John Baptist Church.
OLIVER HILL DRIVE
Marshall Street from 2nd Street to 3rd Street
Oliver White Hill Sr was born on May 1, 1907 in Richmond, Virginia before relocating to Roanoke, Virginia during his early childhood. He relocated to Washington, DC in his later childhood where he graduated from Dunbar High School before attending Howard University. In 1933, he earned a juris doctorate from Howard University School of Law – where he met classmate and future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. The following year, he wed Beresenia Ann Walker, also a Richmond native. In this same year, he joined the Virginia State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and soon returned to Richmond where he tried several cases such as Alston v. School Board of City of Norfolk, Morgan v. Virginia, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward – and most notably Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. He would forge a local legacy with the Law Offices of Hill, Tucker, and Robinson, as well as Hill, Tucker, and Marsh – before becoming the first Black resident elected to the Richmond City Council in the 20th century in 1948. In 1999, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the NAACP Spingarn Medal in 2005 – followed by the naming of the Virginia State Library and Richmond Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courthouse in his honor. He departed on August 5, 2007 at the age of 100 and is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
ROSA DIXON BOWSER BRANCH
E Clay Street and W Clay Street
Rosa Dixon Bowser was born enslaved on January 7, 1855 in Amelia County, Virginia to Henry and Augusta Dixon. She relocated to Richmond during grade school where she trained at the Richmond Colored Normal School through the Freedmen’s Bureau where she received the second-highest marks in her class – becoming the first Black educator with Richmond Public Schools in 1872. During her career, she served as supervisor of teachers at the Baker School before retiring in 1923. She also taught at the local YMCA and organized the precursor to the Virginia State Teachers Association, also known as the Virginia Teachers’ Reading Circle – serving as president from 1890 to 1892. In 1879, she married James Bowser, with whom she birthed a son, before his departure due to tuberculosis. She was a respected community leader with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Industrial Home School for Colored Girls, Virginia Manual Labor School for Colored Boys, Richmond Woman’s League, Virginia Colored Anti-Tuberculosis League, National Association of Colored Women, Woman’s Department of the Negro Reformatory Association, Virginia State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, National Federation of Afro-American Women, and Committee on Domestic Science at the Hampton Negro Conferences. She was a published author who pinned essays such as What Role is the Educated Negro Woman to Play in the Uplifting of Her Race? In 1902 – and in that same year, she was one of the first women to register to vote in the state after ratification of the nineteenth amendment. In 1925, the first branch of the Richmond Public Library for patrons of color was named in her honor. She was an active member of First African Baptist Church until departing from complications due to diabetes on February 7, 1931 and being laid to rest at East End Cemetery.
W.W. BROWNE TERRACE
Chamberlayne Avenue and Jackson Street
William Washington [Ben] Browne was born enslaved on October 20, 1849 in Habersham County, Georgia to Joseph and Mariah Browne. He escaped slavery during the Civil War and served in the Union army. He attended school in Wisconsin before relocating to Alabama to teach, which is where he met his wife, Mary A. Graham in 1873. He emerged as a national temperance advocate and opponent of the Ku Klux Klan. After being denied to the Independent Order of Good Templars, he chartered the Grand United Order of True Reformers. In 1876, he was asked to lead a new branch of the temperance organization, which led to his relocation to Richmond, Virginia in 1880. Under his leadership, the organization shifted from a temperance society to an insurance company, which helped to support other enterprises, such as a newspaper called the Reformer and a bank called the Savings Bank of the Grand Fountain United Order of the True Reformers, which was the nation’s first Black-owned and operated bank. He along with Booker T. Washington were selected as representatives during the Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895. He departed on December 21, 1897 and was buried in Barton Heights Cemeteries [formerly known as Sycamore Cemetery] but was later reinterred at Woodland Cemetery.