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 designees are a representative sample of the rested and readied, which were finalized based on community input after a 30-day period for public comment. In that same spirit, while only a chosen few can receive honorary street designations, the project endeavors to find alternate ways to pay homage to the many who were called to leave a mark on Jackson Ward. To learn more about these and other notable Jackson Wardians, we recommend visiting institutions such as the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia and Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, as well as connecting with the Historic Jackson Ward Association and Walking The Ward with Gary Flowers – and a host of other individuals and|or institutions who have long held space for the life, lineage, and legacy of these stories.
The honorary street designations will intersect with the hidden histories of current street names that bare the namesake of enslavers and|or pro-slavery sympathizers and soldiers, such as Benjamin Watkins Leigh, Isaac Judah, and John Prentis. For example, Leigh Street is named after Benjamin Watkins Leigh who was a pro-slavery sympathizer that censored anti-slavery petitions and periodicals, as well as married into the Wickhams – descendants from one of the “first families of Virginia” who were enslavers and sided with the Confederacy. Moreover, his namesake was a soldier in the Confederate Army who enslaved 34 people and married into a family that enslaved another 93 Black Virginians. Judah Street is the namesake of Isaac Judah who father a set of "mulatto" boys and enslaved at least 2 women named Maria and Betsey, who he willed into hired out slavery upon his death for another 15 years. Most egregious of all is Prentis Street, which is named after John Prentis, who despite hailing from a family who enslaved at least 8 people, initially opposed the institution of slavery, but for the sake of capitalist venture, would become one of the city's most prominent enslavers – also fathering a "mulatto" child. Prentis was especially notorious because his business model centered around the disruption of Black families, often purchasing enslaved people in the upper south – with intentions to resell in the deep south for larger profits. He operated a slaveholding facility on then Prentis Alley, which he later used to primarily trade enslaved “fancy” women for sexual commodification.