The boundaries for Richmond’s Jackson Ward are Belvidere to First Street and Jackson Street to Marshall Street. The neighborhood was once a political subdivision, but it became a center of African-American owned businesses, banks and other social institutions.
The community, founded by free African-Americans and immigrants, had a self-sustaining economy during the Jim Crow era. Alive with theaters, clubs and restaurants, it was known as the Black Wall Street. Maggie Walker, the first female bank owner, lived in the area. It is also home to Richmond’s oldest public school building.
Jackson Ward is called the Harlem of the South because it used to contain the sounds of jazz and prosperity. Highway construction divided the district in the 1950s. Desegregation in Richmond caused many residents to move away.
Today, the district contains one of the largest concentrations of pre-Civil War houses in the city. The styles of the homes include Greek Revival, Italianate, Romanesque and Second Empire. They have cast-iron porches like those of New Orleans. Urban renewal in the 1970s and 1980s lead to widespread demolition. Since this occurred, many of the historic buildings have fallen into disrepair and about 100 are vacant. The expansion of the Richmond Convention Center has crept even farther into Jackson Ward.
A group called the Richmond Renaissance is committed to regaining the neighborhood’s vitality and splendor. The Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority also has a number of projects planned or underway.
The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia on Clay Street houses more information about Jackson Ward. Call 780-9093 for more information.