Central Virginia Driving Tour


    A Tour of African-American Heritage


    Bojangles Statue in Jackson Ward

    Richmond Historic Area | Civil War Sites | Petersburg's Triangle
    Southern Central Sites | Lynchburg Historic Area
    Father of Black History 


    Richmond, "Birthplace "

    Richmond, which was once called the "Birthplace of Black Capitalism," holds a wealth of African-American history.

    Visit the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia in Jackson Ward, where the refurbished Home of Maggie Walker also is located. Maggie Walker was an ex-slave's daughter who became the first female bank president in America!

    The nearby Bill "Bojangles" Robinson Statue (pictured left) recognizes the Richmond-born tap dancer best known for his movie roles alongside Shirley Temple.

    First African-American Governor in the Nation

    In Capitol Square, see the Executive Mansion where L. Douglas Wilder, the nation's first elected African-American governor, lived during his term in office, 1990-1994. While you're there, visit the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial.

    To view African art, travel to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and to Virginia Union University, a premier African-American college established in 1865. VUU is home to the L. Douglas Wilder Library and Learning Resource Center, named in honor of the first African-American to be elected governor in the USA.

    One of the most beautiful boulevards in the world is Monument Avenue, where you can see the monument devoted to tennis great and Richmonder, Arthur Ashe.

    Monument Avenue and the Arthur Ashe Statue 


    African-American Soldiers in the Civil War

    Civil War buffs should begin at the Richmond National Battlefield Park Visitor's Center, which provides an orientation to more than 1,400 acres of Civil War sites. Learn here of the achievements of 14 African-American soldiers who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for gallantry in action.

    Twenty miles south of Richmond in Petersburg, revisit the role of the USCT in the Overland Campaign and the Siege of Petersburg at the Petersburg National Battlefield Park and at Pamplin Historical Park and National Museum of the Civil War Soldier.

    Also, see Pocahontas Island on the Appomattox River, where free Blacks earned their living importing and exporting commercial goods as early as 1800!


    Petersburg's African-American History

    Also in Petersburg, see Liberia's first president and Virginia native commemorated at the Joseph Jenkins Roberts Memorial and tour "The Triangle," Petersburg's African-American business center for more than a century. Also, be sure to see the Underground Railroad House, which is believed to have been a stop for slaves escaping north to freedom.

    See Gillfield Baptist Church has the second oldest handwritten Black Church Record Book in America and opens its archives to interested visitors.

    In Prince Edward County, visit Twin Lakes State Park, where, until desegregation, a portion of the park's area was the only Virginia State Park for African-Americans. Today, the park offers to everyone 6 miles of hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, campsites, a swimming beach and fresh-water fishing.


    Important Sites Further South

    Home of Booker T. Washington

    Near the Virginia/North Carolina border in rural Mecklenburg County is Prestwould Plantation, where visitors can find one of the oldest remaining slave quarters in the state and one of the largest collections of documents relating to African-American life in America.

    West of Burnt Chimney near Smith Mountain Lake is the Booker T. Washington National Monument, boyhood home of the author, educator and presidential advisor who heard the Emancipation Proclamation read there. Watch the enlightening National Park Service presentation that bears the name of Washington's book, Up From Slavery.


    Lynchburg's Rich Black History

    Travel northwest to Lynchburg and its Legacy Museum of African-American History with its featured exhibit on the educational contributions of African-Americans.

    Visit the Anne Spencer House and Gardens, home of the Black poet and Civil Rights advocate who influenced many Harlem Renaissance figures. Before you leave Lynchburg, take the Black History Walking Tour of the Old City Cemetery.

    In nearby Bedford, the Bedford Historic Meeting House still has its original side door, stair and gallery once used by slaves for religious and educational purposes in the decades following the Civil War.


    "Father of Black History"

    Mulberry Row at Monticello artifacts

    An hour and a half north of Lynchburg is U.S. President Thomas Jefferson's Charlottesville estate, Monticello. Tour the remains of Mulberry Row Slave Quarters that document the African-American role in maintaining the plantation.

    Nearby, visit President James Monroe's Ash Lawn-Highland, and tour its reconstructed slave quarters while learning about Monroe's views on slavery.

    While in Charlottesville, take a tour of the University of Virginia, which was founded by Thomas Jefferson and is home to the Carter Woodson Institute, named for the "Father of Black History."

    Travel north to the Orange County home of President James Madison at Montpelier. Forty members of the plantation community are buried in its African-American Cemetery.

Last Updated: 3/29/2011 2:03 PM
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