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 this 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 –  Giles Beecher Jackson,  James Jackson Beer Garden,  Andrew Jackson, or  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.
The JXN Project aims to help drive the next 150 years through a set of initiatives that will launch in April 2021 – followed by a year-long sesquicentennial celebration that will culminate in October 2021. Currently, efforts are underway in hopes of recontextualizing the historic district in honor of Giles B. Jackson because while the origins of the name may have been a debate for the last 150 years, The JXN Project endeavors to ensure that it’s not in dispute for the next 150 years because no other “Jackson” is more deserving. The project also aims to rename the ward's surrounding streets, some of which bear the namesake of enslavers and|or pro-slavery sympathizers and soldiers, with honorary designations in homage to notable Black Richmonders with direct ties to the area and who better embody the essence of Jackson Ward – such as Abraham Skipwith, A.D. Price, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Charles Gilpin, Giles B. Jackson, John Jasper, John Mitchell Jr, Lillie Estes, Lorna Pinckney, Oliver Hill, Maggie L. Walker, Neverett Eggleston, and W. W. Browne. Today, we all stand on the shoulders of many freed and enslaved Black Richmonders, and while the list of giants who undoubtedly helped future generations to see further is vast, The JXN Project hopes that the proposed set of designations are a representative sample of the rested and readied. Additionally, corrections will be submitted to properly contextualize the origins of Jackson Ward with applicable historical preservation entities, such as the National Park Service. In that same spirit, this project will petition to increase the representation of Black Richmonders on the city's commissions and|or committees, such as its official historic preservation body, also known as the Commission for Architectural Review, as well as the Urban Design Committee and Planning Commission. Also, the project aims to include Jackson Ward in the state's investment in historic justice initiatives.
JOIN THE JXN JOURNEY
In support of these initiatives, The JXN Project endeavors to raise $50,000 for planning and programming in support of a year-long sesquicentennial celebration that will culminate with an unveiling ceremony in October 2021, which will include interactive activities and activations across the ward to educate the community on the research that undergirds this initiative. The JXN Project has been rooted in community since its inception, understanding that the preservation of Black history is a collective responsibility among everyone from elders, educators, and elected officials alike, and therefore, we invite you to join us on The JXN Journey. As we prepare to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Jackson Ward, there are a variety of ways to join along in the journey beyond this community-based crowdsourcing campaign. In addition to formal sponsorship packages, as well as monetary and|or in-kind donations, there are exclusive opportunities for local Black-owned businesses to partner as friends of the project. Also, in coming months, The JXN Project will issue a call for community submissions of artifacts and|or anecdotes that capture the historical arc of Jackson Ward. To learn more, visit www.thejxnproject.com or email info[@]thejxnproject.com – and follow us @thejxnproject.
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