RICHMOND – First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe announced today that one of the Executive Mansion gardens will be dedicated in memory of the Valentine - Jackson families who lived and worked at the residence in the early 19th century.
Hannah Valentine and Lethe Jackson were house slaves at Montcalm which was the family home of former Governor and Mary Campbell in Abingdon, Virginia. During David Campbell’s tenure as Governor (1837-1840), he and his family moved into the executive residence in Richmond and brought several slaves with them, leaving Hannah and Lethe back at Montcalm to care for the homestead.
“We hope to provide a place of remembrance and to give context to the heartbreak and suffering endured by individuals like Hannah and Lethe, who were separated from their family members, who were sent to live and work at the Governor’s Mansion,” said Governor McAuliffe. “It is Dorothy’s and my hope that this memorial will help to provide a deeper understanding of the lives and contributions of these men and women. We believe that it is imperative to tell the story of all of the families who are part of the mansion’s history, not just the first families.”
In April of 2015, a member of the Citizens’ Advisory Council uncovered letters housed at Duke University which were written between the family members living in Abingdon and Richmond.
“When the letters were presented to the board, my husband and I were very moved and wanted to find a meaningful way to share the story and history of the Valentine-Jackson families,” said First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe. “The letters show us the intimate feelings of families separated by slavery. As parents, it is unthinkable to imagine being forcibly separated from our children. It has been a personal and poignant journey learning the history and experiences of these enslaved individuals at the Executive Mansion.”
Students from the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, under the leadership of Dr. Bryan Clark Green, researched the letters and garden space to develop the concept. In November of 2015, the Restoration Committee of the Garden Club of Virginia decided to transform the design into what we see today. Bronze plaques with quotes from the letters as well as biographical information on the families have been mounted on the garden and cookhouse walls for visitors to reflect upon.
The McAuliffe Administration would like to give a special thanks to the students and faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University, the Virginia Capitol Foundation, the Capitol Square Preservation Council, the Citizens’ Advisory Council, Garden Club of Virginia, Will Rieley and Associates, Bunkie Trinite Trophies, Grelen Nursery, Charles Funk Masonry, and Ginny Rogan for helping to make this vision come to fruition.
For more information on the Executive Mansion or to set up a tour, please visit www.executivemansion.virginia.gov or contact (804) 371-2642.