Fulton oral histories to be accessible on the Internet

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 4/14/2015, 11:24 a.m.
Stone Brewery is unwittingly giving a helping hand to people who want to call attention to historic Fulton. The brewery’s ...
Mr. Jones

Stone Brewery is unwittingly giving a helping hand to people who want to call attention to historic Fulton.

The brewery’s decision to locate its East Coast home in Fulton is focusing public attention on the area and potentially raising interest in the once African-American community that was bulldozed into oblivion nearly 45 years ago in the name of urban renewal.

That’s good news for those who are now engaged in posting on the Internet interviews with people who knew the area before the community was razed.

The interviews with former residents are being digitized and soon will go online with help from the Valentine Richmond History Center and Virginia Commonwealth University’s library system, according to Spencer E. Jones III, chair of the Legacy Committee of Greater Fulton’s Future.

Putting the history online will make it accessible to the public.

“The project involves digitizing oral history interviews with 32 former residents who talk about their memories of the community, what it was like to live there and what happened to historic Fulton,” said Mr. Jones, a former Fulton resident who fought the community’s destruction in the early 1970s.

VCU is converting the interviews into streaming audio that will be available on computer, according to Lauren Work, a VCU Libraries staff member who has served as project manager.

The audio collection is expected to be available by Thursday, April 16, on the library’s website, www.library.vcu.edu.

“This will make the interviews with current and former residents more widely available,” said Meghan “Meg” Hughes, curator of the Valentine’s archives.

Mr. Jones’ committee and the Valentine completed recording of the oral histories two years ago. Two committee members, the Rev. Pat Perez and Linda Sutton, were instrumental in securing the oral histories, he said. The recorded interviews already are available at the Valentine, the Richmond Public Library, the Library of Virginia and several churches that were forced to relocate when Fulton was torn down.

Mr. Jones credits VCU librarians with coming up with the idea of putting the interviews into a format that will be Internet accessible. He said the librarians approached the Valentine and the committee and won enthusiastic support.

Mr. Jones backs the project so that “everyone will learn the real story about our community” that he said has been ignored and buried for too long.

Regarded as the birthplace of Richmond, historic Fulton occupied the sprawling valley that lies between Church Hill and Fulton Hill. The area is bounded by the James River, Fulton Hill, Jennie Scher Road and a railroad line that runs into Downtown.

Back by federal and city funds, the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority labeled the community as blighted and tore down the old buildings, forcing churches and residents to move out. Decades later, new homes, apartments and businesses fill the area — with Stone Brewery being the latest business planning to make the area its home.