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Friday, April 17, 2009

Heroes for the Avenue

I picked two Richmonders, each of whom would make a suitable candidate for our Avenue of Heroes. It doesn’t matter what you think of heroes past, there are five miles of empty avenue with nothing but grass. It’s time we filled up that empty space with new heroes past and present. As Mark B highlighted, "building memorials to living folks is gauche". I agree. These are people who have stood the test of time. They are legends who are largely ignored. I nominate Maggie L. Walker and Gabriel Prosser, Maggie for her tremendous character to succeed against all odds, and Gabriel Prosser because he is the stuff of legends, a literate slave who risked all not to escape, but to emancipate. Both are largely forgotten by history and little known outside Richmond. It is time we salute our own. We live in a unique city. It’s time we recognized it.

Maggie L. Walker

(From Wikipedia)
  • Born in Richmond, Virginia in 1867, the daughter of Eccles Cuthbert and Elizabeth Draper, two years after the end of the American Civil War. A former slave, her mother Elizabeth was assistant cook in the Church Hill mansion of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Richmond Unionist who had run a spy ring during the Civil War.
  • The first woman bank founder and president in the United States. On opening day, the receipts totaled $9,430.44. Many people opened Christmas savings accounts in which they deposited a penny or a nickel a week
  • The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company continues today as the oldest continuously operating minority-owned bank in the United States. The bank has assets of over $116 million. The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company continues today as the oldest continuously operating minority-owned bank in the United States. The bank has assets of over $116 million.
  • Walker was a charismatic speaker whose favorite topics were race, pride and unity, women's problems and potential, African-American business, and oppression. As her importance grew, she became more active in civic affairs. She was the founder and lifelong head of the Colored Women's Council of Richmond, which raised money for local projects and maintained a community house
Gabriel Prosser
(No image available)

(From Wikipedia)
  • Born into slavery in Henrico County, Virginia as the child of an enslaved African-American mother, Gabriel had two brothers, Solomon and Martin. They all lived on the tobacco plantation, called Brookfield, of Thomas Prosser. It was likely that Gabriel's father was a blacksmith, as that was the trade Gabriel and Solomon were trained in. He was also taught to read and write. By the mid-1790s, as Gabriel neared the age of twenty, he stood "six feet two or three inches high". His long and "bony face, well made", was marred by the loss of his two front teeth and "two or three scars on his head". Whites as well as blacks regarded the literate young man as "a fellow of great courage and intellect above his rank in life."
  • Gabriel planned the revolt during the spring and summer of 1800. On August 30, 1800, Gabriel hoped to lead the slaves into Richmond, but torrential rains postponed the rebellion. The slaves' masters had suspicion of the uprising. Before it could be carried out, two slaves told their master Mosby Sheppard about the plans. He in turn warned Virginia's Governor James Monroe, who called out the state militia. Gabriel escaped downriver to Norfolk, but there was spotted and betrayed by another slave for the reward. That slave did not receive the full reward. Gabriel was returned to Richmond for questioning, but he did not submit. Gabriel, his two brothers, and 24 of their followers were hanged.

I have one favor to ask. Since our local aggregator, RVA Blogs, is on the fritz, I request your refer friends to this blog if you find it worthy. Online referrals are especially appreciated.

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