Soul Of America




Bill "Bojangles" Robinson Monument, Richmond



In the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s, Richmond held the same prominent stature as other southern cities such Baltimore, Norfolk, Charleston and Savannah. Few would mention Atlanta in the same sentence as Richmond until the early 1900s.

Most of the city was destroyed in the Civil War and rebuilt shortly afterwards. As a result, the city looks younger than its age. Another way to think of Richmond is, what Atlanta is to the south in the last 3 decades, Richmond was for hundreds of years.

Richmond is a 1 million person metro area with about 290,000 African Americans.

Richmond has over 5,900 Black businesses.

Located in Richmond, the Virginia State Capital was designed by Thomas Jefferson.

Richmond boasts the first state-supported art museum in the United States and the Southeast’s largest, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

In 1888, America’s first electric streetcar system began operation in Richmond.

Richmond is the only city in the world with a triple main-line railroad crossing still in operation.  It’s still an engineering marvel.

Retail shops in Virginia have a sales tax of 4.5%. Restaurants in Richmond charge a 9.5% meal tax.


Notable Black residents, born here, raised here or made their mark here include:

L. Douglas Wilder
First Black Governor after the Reconstruction Era and only the second in our nation’s history

Maggie Lena Walker
First American woman to own a bank (1903)

William Washington Browne
Famous pastor, banker, publisher and storeowner beginning 1881

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson
Famous tap-dancer helped desegregate audiences

Henry “Box” Brown
Packaged and shipped himself in an unbelievably small box from here to escape slavery

Giles B. Jackson
Former slave, became the first Black lawyer to practice before Virginia Supreme Court

Rev. W.L. Taylor
A Rev. T.D. Jakes-like pastor around 1900

Moses Malone
All-star NBA basketball center

John T. Taylor
Headed Second Street Savings Bank (1920)

Temple C. Ervin
Commercial Bank & Trust Company CEO (1920)

Captain Benjamin Graves
Highest ranking Black soldier ~1900

Arthur Ashe
Avid scholar, human rights activist and the first African-American male to win the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament

Charles T. Russell
Famous architect and teacher at Virginia Union University

John Charles Thomas
1st Black Virginia Supreme Court Justice

14 Black Medal of Honor Winners
These US Colored Troop members were victorious in the Civil War Battle of New Market Heights, just outside Richmond:

William H. Barnes
Powhatan Beaty
James H. Bronson
Christian A. Fleetwood
James Gardiner
James H. Harris
Thomas R. Hawkins
Alfred B. Hilton
Milton M. Holland
Miles James
Alexander Kelly
Robert Pinn
Edward Ratcliff
Charles Veal

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