The JXN Project


WHAT'S IN A NAME?


The JXN Project is working to honestly and accurately capture the pivotal role of Richmond, Virginia in the evolution of the Black American experience. The research that undergirds this project has uncovered primary artifacts that revealed that the stain of the Confederacy – a stain that has even tainted the history of something as seemingly simple as a name extends – far beyond the monuments and can be traced to the gerrymandered origins of the city's northern neck, better known as Jackson Ward. It is no mistake that this project began in the monumental year of 2020, and with its hindsight, has taken further shape in the history-making days of 2021. These past few months have illuminated the stark historic injustices that still plague our country, and indeed, our beloved city, which at one point laid the blueprint for hate – but is equally as positioned to provide a restorative model for hope and healing. Confirmed by last summer’s city-wide protests and the removal of statues erected to celebrate defeated regents and brutal oppressors, we are in a moment that is calling for swift, genuine, and acute change – a call that The JXN Project is committed to answering.


THE LAST 150 YEARS

Jackson Ward is a community steeped in culture and rich in history – a history whose multiple layers have yet to be unearthed. In truth, the origins of Jackson Ward, which date back to April 17, 1871, are complex and ugly. For example, the origins of the name “Jackson Ward” is a long-standing debate that can be traced to as early as 1902, but is generally attributed to one of the following – [1] Giles Beecher Jackson, [2] Joseph Jackson of the Pleasure Garden, [3] Pharmacist James Jackson, [4] Andrew Jackson, or [5] Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. While the first is most deserving of the honor, circumstantial evidence suggests that it may in fact have been named after the last. Often under-told, but the ward was a gerrymandered political district founded on exploited labor and shaped, over centuries, by systems designed to oppress its residents – an impact still felt today. Also felt, however, especially when understanding the urbanized slavery system, is the pride that the legacy of Jackson Ward conjures up for the Richmond community – particularly Black Richmonders who as residents have built a legacy rooted in ambition, creativity, resilience, and the sheer will to create a better life for themselves, their families, and their city. In that spirit, as we broach the ward's 150th anniversary, there isn’t a more earnest way to capture a more complete and honest picture of the complex history of the city than by sharing the stories of a space like Jackson Ward, where Black Richmonders juxtaposed enslavement and exploitation with entrepreneurship and enterprise – even before emancipation.
 

THE NEXT 150 YEARS

Like the rest of this country, Richmond has a decision to make because at this very moment we can confront who we were while also choosing who we will be – and so we as a city must ask ourselves. Are we going to allow our legacy to be forever tethered to a lost cause, with our greatest contribution to the world being the former capital of a defeated Confederacy, or will we use this moment to correct course for a more just cause? Are we brave enough to pivot away from one-dimensional slave narratives that no longer serve us and take the opportunity at hand to elevate the best of our lineages and legacies? Are we bold enough to celebrate the Black excellence that managed to not only survive, but thrive in the face of social and systemic oppression – becoming a north star in the former capital of the south for future generations to come? The JXN Project believes that we are and that the shoulders of Richmond’s truest heroes, like Giles B. Jackson, are rested and readied to carry us the next 150 years. 

JXN’s work is primarily focused on uncovering the origin story of Jackson Ward – with a concentration from 1768 when William Byrd first sold parcels of land on the city’s northern edge to 1871 when that same edge was gerrymandered and renamed “Jackson Ward.” JXN’s approach to its work is guided by a holistic framework with a focus on eight [8] key pillars to include pedagogy, philanthropy, preservation, and proprietorship, as well as public art, public engagement, public programming, and public service, policy and|or planning.  

As for the project’s proven record of impact within the ward, JXN coordinated a year-long sesquicentennial celebration for Jackson Ward, which launched with “Illuminating Legacies: Giles B. Jackson Day” – followed by a six-part “JXN Project Summer Lecture Series” with the Library of Virginia and Richmond Public Library. The celebration culminated with a mass honorary street installation for "Unveiling The Vanguard”, which included “Abraham Skipwith Alley” in tribute to Abraham Peyton Skipwith.

 
JOIN THE JXN JOURNEY

As the ward’s first known Black homeowner and one of the first, if not the first, Black Richmonders and|or Virginians with a fully executed will, JXN considers Abraham Peyton Skipwith, who had direct ties to the traditionally recognized forefathers, as the “Founding Father of Jackson Ward.” “The Skipwith-Roper Homecoming” is a campaign to reconstruct his home for interpretative purposes in an effort to tell a fuller history of the Black American experience through the untold story of the life, lineage, and legacy of the founding father of the country’s first historically registered Black urban neighborhood. 

JXN intends to reconstruct the Skipwith-Roper Cottage as an environmentally sustainable structure with onsite parking, operational offices, and outdoor greenspace for community programming and placemaking. This homecoming initiative is timely as the role of infrastructure projects, like the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike, in disconnecting communities of color, like Jackson Ward, is currently at the center of public discourse. With it being said that 1 in 4 Black Americans can retrace their roots to the rivers in the Richmond region, the goal is for the site to emerge as a destination of choice as a historical, cultural, and architectural attraction during the forthcoming U.S. Semiquincentennial in 2026. 

The full scope of the homecoming initiative will require approximately $5.68M in funding, which JXN endeavors to raise by FY24 – to include construction and non-construction costs, such as outreach and engagement, community programming, and research and analysis.

The JXN Project has been rooted in community since its inception, understanding that the preservation of Black places, spaces, and faces is a collective responsibility among everyone from elders, educators, and elected officials alike. Therefore, we invite you to join JXN’s journey to reconstructing the Skipwith-Roper Cottage and restoring the JXN Haus as part of “The Skipwith-Roper Homecoming." There are a variety of ways to join The JXN Journey as individual givers are invited to make a donation using this GoFundMe campaign page -- and no amount is too small. Additionally, institutional givers who are interested in in-kind support and|or sponsorship packages ranging from $1M to less than $5K are invited to contact [email redacted] for more information.

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Organizer

The JXN Project 
Organizer
Richmond, VA