‘What became of the Black People of Sumer?’

3/21/2024, 6 p.m.
I learned the value of peaceful protest at Virginia Union University. I learned to stand up and speak up for …

I learned the value of peaceful protest at Virginia Union University. I learned to stand up and speak up for issues that matter, in an atmosphere of civil discourse. I learned about the necessity of preserving and protecting our history while making more for generations to come. I learned these things through classroom teachings and through the role models I encountered on campus every day over the 10 years I roamed those hallowed grounds, and in the years since as an involved alumna. I learned the meaning of good citizenship at Virginia Union University.

The Richmond 34 and so many others learned those same life lessons.

VUU’s leadership in those years valued and encouraged input from its constituencies, truly listened to opposing views, altered course when a better idea became evident and, in the 1960s, supported peaceful student protests when dissatisfactions arose. VUU’s leadership viewed such a posture as a learning experience for all involved, including themselves.

Now, we are finding the need to direct our attention back on our alma mater which seeks to destroy a symbol vital to the history of adequate and reasonable health care for African-American citizens, as well as others, in Richmond and beyond. It is hard to understand how such a venerable institution could evolve into one which cavalierly dismisses one of the three stalwarts of our African-American community.

These three stalwarts were: Consolidated Bank and Trust, founded by L. Maggie Walker as the Penny Savings Bank; Richmond Community Hospital, founded by Dr. Sarah Garland Jones; and Virginia Union University, founded on the property of Lumpkin’s Jail to educate freed slaves.

Consolidated is now gone, the (new) Richmond Community Hospital is a shell of what the old RCH was on Overbrook Road, and VUU has lost much of its glow, respect and influence.

Must WE be a part of the Destruction of Black Civilization? (Ref: The book written by Chancellor Williams, 1971) Or shall we heed Chancellor Williams’ dire warning: “What became of the Black People of Sumer?” the traveller asked the old man, “for ancient records show that the people of Sumer were Black. What happened to them?” “Ah,” the old man sighed. “They lost their history, so they died.”