I was born and raised in India and am new to this country. As an immigrant, I enjoy traveling and discovering the history of Brown and Black people (African Americans) in the U.S. In school, we learned very little about their contributions, so when the opportunity to visit historic Richmond, Virginia, presented itself, my wife and I took it as a sign because we visited during Black History Month.
It was an opportunity for us to understand just how much this community contributed and continues to contribute to Virginia and this country in general.
Our stay was at the Graduate Richmond Hotel, with a check-in that was so smooth; it was done in minutes! It didn’t take long for us to realize how much we enjoyed the arts and culture we were introduced to as we explored Richmond, choosing to spend our evening in the Downtown Richmond Arts District Galleries on Bond Street. As luck would have it, we arrived on the First Friday of the month, which celebrates “First Friday, Art Walks,” which mark the creativity of our city and features various works and performances by local Richmond, regional and national artists.
Bond Street is a treasure just a five-minute walk from the Graduate Richmond Hotel. We visited Ann’s visual studio and enjoyed the live band music and viewing exclusive art. Among the many beauties, we were fascinated the most by “Eddie in Providence” artwork by Ryan C. Eubank, made from discarded lids, caps, buttons, and salvaged paint, and the “People of Main Street” or Driftwood “Calico Marlin” by Greg Lewis.
The other gallery we checked out was Gallery 5, which hosts weekly visiting art groups and is one of the main venues in the region for unique and progressive performance art programs.
Food is a big deal in Virginia, and we had a delicious dinner at Lillie Pearl, where we dined on Southern Fried Chicken, lobster, and crab cakes, a must when visiting, and the ambiance is relaxing. If you have a sweet tooth (and we do), don’t skip on the deserts.
The following day we headed for the tour of the Richmond slave trail along with Elegba Folklore Society’s president and artistic director, Janine Bell. Janine is exceptionally welcoming and shared with us the history of black lives and their journey to the United States.
The Richmond Slave Trail is a walking trail that tells the tale of enslaved Africans being transported from Africa to Virginia until 1775 and then from Virginia, particularly Richmond, to other parts of the Americas until 1865. It all starts at Manchester Docks, a prominent port in the vast downriver slave trade that made Richmond, from 1830 to 1860, the leading supplier of enslaved Africans on America’s east coast.
The walk then passes through Richmond’s slave markets, besides the Reconciliation Statue honoring the worldwide triangle slave trade, thru Lumpkin’s Slave Jail and the Negro Burial Ground, and on to First African Baptist Church, a pre-Civil War center of African American life.
Later we visited the Maymont, a 100-acre American home that James and Sallie Dooley, who lived there from 1893 until 1925, gave to the town. The Japanese garden at Maymont is a popular tourist attraction, and we enjoyed the beautiful sunset beside the lake and feeding the ducks!
Here are the highlights that should not be missed while visiting Richmond, Virginia.
A place to view art galleries and shops.
A week is dedicated to celebrating Black-owned restaurants, chefs, food trucks, and caterers with their signature Mobile Soul Sunday with over 20 food trucks, plus live music and beer.
The American Civil War Museum
The country’s only Civil War museum views the war from all perspectives – Union, Confederate, enslaved, and free African Americans, soldiers, and civilians.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
This museum features over 33,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years.
Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia
This museum is located in the historic Jackson Ward neighborhood (known as the Harlem of the South), and tells the stories of African-American history, art, and culture in Virginia.
St. John’s Church
The church is where Patrick Henry gave his famous ‘give me liberty or give me death speech! It’s located in Church Hill, Richmond’s most historic neighborhood, and just beautiful.
During a stroll around the Arts District, you will see the Mending Walls murals (a map for a self-guided tour is attached – but can also be found on their website).
Mending Walls is an art project started by muralist Hamilton Glass that brings together public artists from different cultures and backgrounds to create murals that address where we are now in society, and how we can move forward through understanding and collaboration. Each mural has a QR code that you can scan, which will tell you all about the mural and its artists.