Recently, I was driving THROUGH “Navy Hill” on the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike, now known as I-95 and observed what was on both sides of the highway.
Historic Sixth Mt. Zion Baptist Church, an icon of defiance, by refusing to sell out, though being punished and isolated and cut off with limited access to the neighborhood and local community was on one side. On the other side, was a community workplace where a cousin of mine worked for many years, the St. Luke Building, the founding building site of the renowned Maggie L. Walker’s insurance business.
I remembered how Oliver W. Hill, my friend and valiant crusader for justice for all people, was affected by the destruction of Navy Hill.
Oliver Hill was the first person of color in modern times to be elected to the City Council in 1949.
He was persuaded by his colleagues to vote for the highway, destroying Navy Hill, with promises of support for his re-election.
He fulfilled his part of the bargain; his colleague(s) did not. And for that, he was NEVER elected to public office again, despite several attempts.
When I now read of the “rehabilitation of Navy Hill”, I ask how can you rehabilitate that which has been destroyed?