Hidden in Plain Site is a virtual tour of Richmond’s dark past

Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia
Photo: BSE Professional (Shutterstock)

Congress abolished the African slave trade in 1808. But while the international slave trade was illegal, it gave way to increased domestic trade, where Richmond was one of the biggest hubs for the sale and transfer of enslaved Africans into the country. But the places where families were separated and slaves were traded so many years ago often go unnoticed by Richmond residents and visitors, who walk and pass the sites daily today. But a new virtual tour is determined to make sure the story lives on.

Hidden in an ordinary site is a guided virtual tour of Richmond, Virginia that focuses on some of the city’s most important but often overlooked sites that don’t have monuments or statues to set them apart. Created by J. Dontrese Brown, Dean Browell and David Waltenbaugh, the nearly 20-minute interactive presentation takes you to sites that tell important stories of Black history in Richmond. Viewers can experience the tour on their computer, mobile device, or with virtual reality headsets.

One of the first stops on the tour is a 360 degree view of the place that once housed Lumpkin Jail, also known as Devil’s Half Acre. The site, owned by Robert Lumpkin, contained living quarters for slave traders, as well as an auction house where slaves were bought and sold. Viewers are also heading to Richmond African Cemeteryconsidered one of the oldest urban cemeteries of free and enslaved black people.

The 2020 murder of George Floyd inspired the band to launch the self-funded project. And J. Dontrese Brown hopes those who experience the HiPS tour will be encouraged to come to Richmond and see the sites in person. “We wanted to shine a light on the conversation about social justice, the energy of our city and our community and our nation coming together for equality, social justice, fairness and just doing what is right. It will leave you so inspired to visit these sites themselves,” he said.