Odd Fellows Hall

Odd Fellows Hall (HMS1R)

Location: Richmond, VA 23219
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Country: United States of America
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N 37° 32.077', W 77° 25.81'

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Richmond Slave Trail

Established in England in the mid-1700's, the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows began as a philanthropic organization that welcomed both white and black membership. 1813 witnessed a significant rift in the Order's structure when many of the members broke away to form the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, or I.O.O.F.. Setting its sights on American enrollment, this new faction sent members oversees and by 1819 established its first official American chapter in Baltimore at the Seven Stars Tavern. Sadly, this new iteration of an originally inclusive and unbiased organization refused to honor African American membership and denied all-black or mixed-race groups of Odd Fellows official charter status.

Over the course of the following decades, established chapters of the I.O.O.F. spread throughout the northeastern and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. While their denial of black membership quickly associated I.O.O.F. with whites, African Americans seeking a recognized Odd Fellows chapter followed their own course of action. In 1843, African American members of a yet unrecognized group in New York met Peter Ogden, a British black man and member of the original Grand United Order of Odd Fellows. A steward on the transatlantic vessel, the Patrick Henry, Mr. Ogden travelled frequently between Liverpool and America and during a visit to England appealed to the Grand United Order for a charter. As this original group still honored the fundamental principles of the Odd Fellows, the Grand United Order did not discriminate against skin color and granted Mr. Ogden a charter on March 1, 1843. He returned to New York and founded the first African American lodge of the Odd Fellows later that same year.

Unfortunately, such liberties did extend to blacks in the South. Prior to the Civil War, strong sanctions prohibited blacks from gathering in public and while clandestine fraternal orders certainly existed, meetings and member identity were kept in absolute secrecy. As one can imagine, the I.O.O.F. established a devoted following in Richmond during this time and by 1841 boasted a strong enough membership to warrant a dedicated meeting house. Built on the northeast corner of Franklin and Mayo, the Odd Fellows Hall hosted all manner of events on its stage: opera performance, dance ensembles and the occasional visit by General Tom Thumb, the famous midget. In the basement, another popular activity took place: the auctioning of slaves. Announced by hanging a red flag on the basement door, these open sales of men, women and children led to an annual dispersion of over forty thousand blacks throughout the slave trading states in the antebellum years. During years of particularly brisk trade, this number could double as parents and children, husbands and wives and brothers and sisters were separated indefinitely.

Sources: Mjagkij, Nina, ed. Organizing Black America: An Encyclopedia of African American Associations; Lee, Richard M. General Lee's City - An Illustrated Guide of the Historic Sites of Confederate Richmond; Scott, Mary Winfield. Old Richmond Neighborhoods.

About the Trail

Designed as a walking path, the Richmond Slave Trail chronicles the history of the trade in enslaved Africans from their homeland to Virginia until 1778, and away from Virginia, especially Richmond, to other locations in the Americas until 1865. The trail begins at the Manchester Docks, which, alongside Rocketts Landing on the north side of the river, operated as a major port in the massive downriver slave trade, making Richmond the largest source of enslaved blacks on the east coast of America from 1830 to 1860. While many of the slaves were shipped on to New Orleans and to other Deep South ports, the trail follows the footsteps of those who remained here and crossed the James River, often chained together in a coffle. Once reaching the northern riverbank, the trail then follows a route through the slave markets and auction houses of Richmond, beside the Reconciliation Statue commemorating the international triangular slave trade and on to the site of the notorious Lumpkin's Slave Jail and leading on to Richmond's African Burial Ground, once called the Burial Ground for Negroes, and the First African Baptist Church, a center of African American life in pre-Civil War Richmond. - Richmond Slave Trail Commission - 2011 -
Title image: "After the Sale: Slaves Going South", 1853, Painted from live by Eyre Crowe, courtesy the Chicago History Museum
HM NumberHMS1R
Year Placed2011
Placed ByRichmond Slave Trail Commission
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 at 7:54pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 285279 N 4156957
Decimal Degrees37.53461667, -77.43016667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 37° 32.077', W 77° 25.81'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds37° 32' 4.62" N, 77° 25' 48.60" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)804
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 12 Captain Strout Cir, Richmond VA 23219, US
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