Yesterday was another working day for us, which was okay since our “work” is playing tourist. Yeah, I know, it’s a tough gig, but somebody has to do it.
We drove back to Richmond to get to some of the places we missed on our visit the week before. We knew we couldn’t cover everything we wanted to in Virginia’s capital city because that would take a month or more, but there were three places we really wanted to see.
Our first stop was historic St. John’s Church, which was built in 1741 and is still an active Episcopal church as well as a National Historic Landmark. Many important early-day Virginians are buried here and the church grounds are covered with headstones dating back over 250 years. It was here at St. John’s in 1775 that a fiery young attorney named Patrick Henry gave a speech against British oppression that ended with the famous words, “Give me liberty or give me death!”
When we left the church, we spent about three hours exploring the Virginia Holocaust Museum. It’s hard to find words to describe the horrors that the place depicts, with its exhibits that trace the rise of the Nazi party and the progression from ghettos to concentration camps to what the Nazi’s called the Final Solution, the extermination of millions of human beings.
Not just Jews, but also Gypsies, the handicapped, the mentally impaired, homosexuals and anyone else who didn’t fit Adolf Hilter’s twisted vision of a master race were murdered en masse, their bodies cremated to remove any evidence of the Nazi atrocities.
I must warn you that this museum is not a place for the squeamish; photographs of the dead and near dead will tear your heart in two. But I think there must be places like this to remind us because, as the saying goes, “Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.” Terry summed up our feelings when we left the Holocaust Museum with just one word – haunting.
We had time for one final tour in Richmond, and it was one I was looking forward to, the home of Maggie L. Walker. Born just after the Civil War to a white father and an African-American woman, Walker realized the value of an education at a young age and became an advocate for social reform to better the lives of African-Americans in America.
Among her many accomplishments was becoming the first female African-American to charter a bank in the United States and act as its president, the first African-American woman to operate a newspaper, to assuming the national leadership of the Independent Order of St. Luke, a fraternal burial society for African-Americans that was established the same year she was born. While her hard work, integrity, and business acumen made Walker wealthy, she never lost sight of her original goal, to improve the lives of African-Americans, especially African-American women. Through her hard work and the example she set, black women learned that there were alternatives to a life of drudgery as a low paid domestic servant, laundress, or working in one of Richmond’s tobacco warehouses.
We’ll have feature stories on the Virginia Holocaust Museum and the Maggie L. Walker National Historic site in a future issue of the Gypsy Journal.
Today is your last chance to enter this week’s Free Drawing for an autographed copy of my buddy Al Hesselbart’s great history of the recreational vehicle, The Dumb Things Sold…Just like that! To enter, all you have to do is click on the Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.
Thought For The Day – Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up.