11 Most Endangered Historic Places

Shockoe Bottom

Year Listed: 2014
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Threat: Development

Shockoe Bottom

Photo by Ron Cogswell

Significance

Shockoe Bottom was a center of the African slave trade between 1830 and 1865 -- over 350,000 slaves were traded there. The area held slave jails, auction houses and businesses participating in the enslavement of thousands of men, women and children. Among the most notorious places in Shockoe Bottom was Goodwin’s Jail, where Solomon Northup, whose life was chronicled in the movie, "12 Years a Slave," was held after being kidnapped.

Shockoe Bottom is threatened by potential development of a minor league baseball stadium. Shockoe Bottom’s invaluable resources cannot be seen – none of the buildings from the slave trade remain visible in these eight-blocks, and the artifacts of antebellum Richmond are now below the surface, out of sight. Shockoe Bottom should be protected as a site of conscience, a place that offers the public a chance to experience, and learn from, this dark chapter in American history. A path forward for Shockoe Bottom should include meaningful public involvement and expert archeological analysis so that the historical remnants of the slave trade now buried there can be seen and properly interpreted.