Lumpkin’s Jail/The Devil’s Half Acre: The Largest Antebellum Trading Site for Enslaved Blacks

1 Posted by - August 9, 2022 - LATEST POSTS, SLAVERY

Lumpkin’s Jail was located in what is now called the Historic Shockoe Bottom in Richmond, Virginia. The sunken jail was known as “The Devil’s Half Acre” because it was a holding pen, a punishment and “breaking” center for more than 300,000 enslaved men and women, and the slaves inside the pen would have felt hemmed in and trapped. On a wet December day, the site was described as being a deep, raw pit pocked with mud puddles, with an old, brick retaining wall that divided the bottom. By the time an enslaved person left the holding pen, they “knew their place.”

The pen was owned by slave dealer Robert Lumpkin, who was known as a “bully trader.” The jail was the largest antebellum slave-trading site outside of New Orleans. Lumpkin died shortly after the Civil War. He had fathered five children with a black woman named Mary, who was a former slave and acted as his wife, she even took his name.

Anthony Burns, the escaped slave who, after fleeing Virginia, was recaptured in Boston and returned to Richmond under the Fugitive Slave Act, was confined in Lumpkin’s jail for four months in 1854 until Northern abolitionists purchased his freedom. According to an account Burns gave for a biography, the slave was isolated in a room “only six or eight feet square,” on a top floor accessible by a trapdoor

Years later, Mary Lumpkin, the African American widow of Richard Lumpkin, leased the property to the Reverend Nathaniel Colver, who founded a Baptist seminary. He would hold classes in Lumpkin’s Jail. By 1876, large industrial buildings later took over the site. Its history was largely forgotten until 2005, when archeologists began the first phase of an investigation that eventually found evidence of the complex, including the original jail building buried nearly fifteen feet beneath the modern ground level.

lumpkin jail


The Excavation of Lumpkin’s Jail


  • gamefly free trial May 3, 2019 - 2:55 am

    Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
    The words in your article seem to be running off the screen in Opera.
    I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or
    something to do with web browser compatibility but
    I thought I’d post to let you know. The design and style look great though!
    Hope you get the problem resolved soon. Kudos

  • gamefly May 4, 2019 - 11:26 am

    I want to to thank you for this excellent read!! I certainly enjoyed every little bit of it.
    I’ve got you saved as a favorite to look at new stuff you post…

  • download minecraft pc May 13, 2019 - 3:37 pm

    Everyone loves what you guys tend to be up too. This
    kind of clever work and exposure! Keep up the superb works guys I’ve included you guys to blogroll.

  • gamefly free trial May 29, 2019 - 7:26 am

    I’m amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both equally educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head.
    The issue is an issue that too few folks are speaking
    intelligently about. Now i’m very happy that I came across this during my search for something regarding this.

  • how to get help in windows 10 May 30, 2019 - 5:13 pm

    Hi there, I want to subscribe for this web site to obtain newest
    updates, thus where can i do it please help out.

  • gamefly free trial May 31, 2019 - 2:13 am

    At this time it sounds like BlogEngine is the top blogging platform available right now.
    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your blog?

  • StepBaday May 31, 2019 - 1:49 pm

    All Day Chemist Cheap Generic Kamagra viagra Cialis Testimonianze

  • gamefly free trial June 1, 2019 - 3:35 am

    I’m impressed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s
    both equally educative and engaging, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail
    on the head. The issue is an issue that too few men and women are speaking intelligently about.
    Now i’m very happy that I found this during my hunt for something concerning this.

  • gamefly free trial June 3, 2019 - 10:22 am

    Greetings I am so thrilled I found your weblog,
    I really found you by accident, while I was looking on Yahoo for something else, Anyways I am here now
    and would just like to say kudos for a marvelous post and a all round interesting
    blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the moment but
    I have bookmarked it and also included your
    RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read much more, Please do keep up the superb work.

  • gamefly free trial June 4, 2019 - 5:18 pm

    As the admin of this web page is working, no
    doubt very rapidly it will be famous, due to its feature contents.

  • gamefly free trial June 6, 2019 - 7:09 pm

    If some one wishes to be updated with most recent technologies after that he must be visit this web site and be
    up to date everyday.

  • playstation 4 pro games June 8, 2019 - 12:40 am

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.

    I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a little
    bit, but other than that, this is wonderful blog.
    An excellent read. I’ll definitely be back.

  • StepBaday June 9, 2019 - 2:21 am

    Online Pharmacy Slimex On Line Clobetasol Get No Prescription Needed Cheapeast generic viagra Generico Levitra Online Mg