Around the year 1619, slavery landed on the North American shore. Slave ships sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. Then, west along the James River. Finally, to a village on the modern-day site of Richmond, Virginia. Once there, slave traders led Africans through obscure forest trails—but only at night, so as not to disturb the day to day lives of white folk. Eventually sold at auction at the village, these Africans became slaves, continuing the racist history that began with the genocide of Native people.
In 1737, the village was renamed Richmond. It was at this place, which marked the beginning of America’s legacy of violence against African Americans, that revolutionaries met this winter to discuss how to finally heal these wounds.
Until recently, Davis says, most white Americans didn’t realize how big a problem racism was.
For other countries with racist histories, like South Africa and Canada, healing has involved national Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, public hearings that openly acknowledge what happened and begin the process of resolution. The United States has had only two so far. One took place in Greensboro, North Carolina, from 2004 to 2006, and addressed a hate-driven massacre that left five people dead. Another has been meeting in Maine since 2012 to address the disproportionate number of Native Wabanaki children in foster care, forcibly removed from their homes and stripped of their cultural heritage.
But nothing of the kind has taken place at the national level. This year, that began to change.