Manchester Slave Docks
This small marker was part of a local history project by St. Catherine’s Middle School.
A view of the marker in 2010 along with area residents fishing
Hikers can walk the same path that slaves tread to and from the river.
Backstory and Context
Located in the Ancarrow’s Landing section of the James River Park, the Manchester Slave Docks were a pathway to transport slaves from the late 1700’s all the way until the Civil War. Until the 1820’s, slaves were taken on the path to slave jails.Chained at the neck and legs, they were moved at night so that they wouldn’t offend citizens. Often badly beaten, the slaves had “oozing sores,” were filthy and carried a stench from the slave ships. From the 1820’s until the civil war, slaves walked the path in the opposite direction, back towards the docks.
“Surplus” slaves were shipped out from the port for resale. Often to places like New Orleans where there were very large sugar cane and cotton plantations after tobacco “hit a slump.” This was the cornerstone of the marketplace in Richmond and the state as well. At this time in Virginia, deliberate sale and breeding of people was essential for the plantation economy in place. “By 1859 half a million slaves had been sold from Virginia to the Deep South, with more in 1854 than any other year, as many as 10,000 a month.”
Coming across the bridge of Interstate 95, which covers the trail, back down to Hull Street you can go on to drive across Mayo Bridge to the Kanawha Canal. This canal was built in the late 18th century, mostly by slave labor. It was restored in 1999 and reopened. Built in order to ship slaves, it also became a way for slaves to escape to freedom. On this canal, there stands a 2’x3’ box to commemorate Henry “Box” Brown who escaped to Philadelphia with the help of a shoemaker, who was later arrested while trying to help two other slaves escape, and became an activist for anti-slavery. The box is representative of the box he escaped in which was of the same size.
Selbert, Pamela. Walk in the Footsteps of Richmond's Slaves. St. Louis Post-Dispath. February 05, 2011. Accessed August 13, 2017. http://www.stltoday.com/travel/walk-in-the-footsteps-of-richmond-s-slaves/article_3a1f0c94-5881-5912-b126-c173afc698b4.html.
Visit Richmond,VA. Accessed August 13, 2017. https://www.visitrichmondva.com/listings/ancarrow%E2%80%99s-landing-manchester-slave-dock/1720/.