Hidden History: Valentine art exhibit

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Valentine exhibit shows the slave trade to the modern civil rights movement. The Valentine has been telling the story of Richmond since 1898.

When you walk through the Valentine you get a small taste of Black American experience right here in Richmond.

Meg Hughes, archives curator, said it’s as simple as opening up a drawer.

“Everyone wants to pull out a drawer, lift up a panel or open up a door to see what’s behind it,” Hughes said.

Found inside the rafters of the Shockoe Bottom tobacco warehouse was a flogger.

“If objects could speak that would be one I’m sure would include some really heart-wrenching stories,” Hughes said.

There are also original documents encased behind glass.

“These are receipts and a log shown the receipts for the purchase of individuals,” Hughes said. “So we have Barry, who was $2,700 and Handi who was $2,675.”

Hughes said Richmond enjoyed a booming economy.

“Really the Richmond economy by the mid 19th century was held up and supported by the slave trade,” Hughes said.

The exhibit also shows the Jackson Ward neighborhood in it’s hey-day as well as it’s decline.

“We also had people being forced out as redevelopment and highway construction demolished hundreds of homes,” Hughes said. “Not just in Jackson War, but other neighborhoods in Richmond.”

The exhibit also takes you to the 60’s where you can see how Virginia Union University students staged a sit-in at Woolworth’s counter to protest Richmond’s segregation, and you can’t have a Richmond story without Doug Wilder.”

“Wilder was the first African American since Reconstruction to serve in the senate of Virginia, Virginia’s first elected African American Lieutenant Govenor and the first African American Governor in U.S. history,” Hughes said.

It’s not just Richmond history being told at the Valentine, it’s American history.

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