America's Best History Spotlight

On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.

Maggie Walker's Home

Maggie Walker NHS, Virginia

Maggie Lena (Draper) Walker was less than two years old when the Civil War ended, but by the time she was twenty years old, she had grown into a woman of such strength, even in the south that was foiling reconstruction into Jim Crow policies and politics that tried to prevent the black population in Richmond from prospering, that she would have none of that. It would be a long battle, take the rest of her life, and still needs completion. However, during her days in Jackson Ward, Maggie Lena Walker would join organizations, the Independent Order of St. Luke's, rise to the top, and help build the black businesses in the ward so that the people there were not dependent on the white businesses who didn't respect them anyway. Yes, she would become the first woman president of a bank, ... it would be far from her only notable accomplishment.

Photo above: Photo today of Maggie Walker's home, part of Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site. Tours are given of the home. Courtesy America's Best History.

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Info, What's There Now, History Nearby

Maggie Walker's Statue

Maggie Walker NHS, Virginia

Today, a visit to Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site is a reminder of one side of the Jim Crow era that gets less credence than it should. And the story of Ms. Walker was far from the only black pioneer who navigated the era successfully. Yes, we hear of the literacy requirements for voting, the horrid emergence of the Klu Klux Klan, and the leftover leaders of the Confederacy taking back power in the states where they had formerly enslaved their black chattel, which occurred, in part, to the compromise in the Presidential Election of 1876 which gave the presidency to the Republicans in exchange for allowing Southern states to be headed by former Confederate soldiers. Yes, that happened, and it pushed back the Civil Rights of Black Americans for almost one hundred years.

And all Maggie L. Walker, Mary McLeod Bethune, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. de Bois would do (the other side of that story), was fight back and work to gain as much power as they could. And they were all colleagues of Maggie Walker, visiting her home for philosophic and practical plans to accomplish for their brethren what the politicians would not. Maggie Walker would turn Jackson Ward into a black owned business haven with good schools, Booker T. Washington would work on education projects leading to the formation of schools, such as the Tuskegee Institute, and W. E. B. Du Bois, with friends Mary White Ovington, Moorfield Storey, Ida B. Wells, Lillian Wald, and Henry Moskowitz would form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909.

Image above: Photo of Maggie Walker's statue and plaza in Jackson Ward today with wayside and inscriptions describing her achievements as a black businesswoman who inspired the entire area to protest Jim Crow laws and compete, with black owned businesses, with the white businesses nearby. Courtesy America's Best History. Below: Variety of photos of Maggie Walker through the years, (left) 21-26 years old, Richmond Photo Co.; (center) Maggie in 1917; (right) Between 1910-1920, Wims Burg Photo Co. All photos courtesy National Park Service.

Maggie Walker Photos

Where Is It

The Visitor Center for the Maggie Walker National Historic Site is located at 600 North 2nd Street, Richmond, VA 23219. There is free street parking along 2nd Street with a three hour limit. The home itself is located around the corner on E. Leigh Street. The entire Jackson Ward area surrounds her home; ask at the Visitor Center about taking a self-guided tour of Jackson Ward with a provided map and website descriptions. They are working on improving an app with voice descriptions of the sites you will see.

Minute Walk in History

Maggie Walker, born during the Civil War, but came to prominence as a Black History Pioneer when she put the region of Richmond known as Jackson Ward on her back, creating schools, insurance companies, banks, stores, to help the African American community rise up on their own volition, not accepting the crumbs of the white community right next door on Broad Street. Take a walk through her home and the neighborhood that she, and others, spawned into a thriving community. Who were her contemporaries, ... De Bois, Booker T. Washington, Bojangles Robinson. Music by Marianne Anderson; Oh, What a Morning and My Way Cloudy. Can't help but think that as the second song repeats "... send an angel down," that that angel was Maggie Walker.

Dining Room, Maggie Walker House

What is There Now

Maggie Walker NHS

There is a visitor center off the back courtyard of the house with an introductory film, exhibits, and ranger orientation. A tour of the Maggie Walker house is held on the hour from 10:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. Photo above is of the dining area. Courtesy America's Best History.

There are facilities on site and a water fill station. After the house tour, if you wish, you can go on a walking tour of Jackson Ward, where the statues of Maggie Walker and Bojangles Robinson sit, as well as the buildings associated with Maggie Walker and the Independent Order of St. Luke's. Some of the buildings are occupied, but others, like the initial insurance company, which you can see from the courtyard, are vacant.

When Open and How Much

Open Tuesday to Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., some holidays excluded. There is no fee.

Fees and hours are subject to change.

Maggie Walker National Historic Site

History Nearby

Since you are in downtown Richmond, you are near many Siege of Richmond sites from the Civil War in 1864 and 1865. Of course, there's a whole lot more than that as well as Richmond was one of the epicenters of frustration with the British Government during the years prior to, and during, the American Revolution.

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