VUU, don’t destroy hospital that took the Black community decades to build

2/15/2024, 6 p.m.
Thank you for your recent editorial, “Don’t pull plug on historic hospital, VUU” and the coverage of Virginia Union’s development ...

Thank you for your recent editorial, “Don’t pull plug on historic hospital, VUU” and the coverage of Virginia Union’s development plans, which omit the old Richmond Community Hospital building on Overbrook Road.

As a lifelong Richmond resident and amateur historian, I was appalled to learn that current plans call for the demolition of this historic building, rather than initiating a thoughtful community engagement process to develop a way to incorporate the structure into Virginia Union University’s campus plans.

This historic building was the result of decadeslong fundraising efforts to erect a community hospital to provide care with dignity and respect for African-American patients from birth to death. It was another stop along the path toward creating health care equity in Richmond that started after the Civil War with such hospitals as Howard’s Grove and Chimbarozo.

Richmond Community Hospital addressed health care needs for those African-American patients who were excluded from most hospitals and provided a space where Black doctors could treat their patients. The hospital served not only the city of Richmond, but surrounding counties as well. In synergy with the hospital,

Virginia Union University provided the health care courses many African-Americans needed to become nurses or doctors.

Were there any conversations held with the Black community at-large before the decision was made to demolish the structure?

Were any prior conversations held with Richmond’s Black health care providers? Were any historic preservation groups or experts consulted?

Posting a historic marker is not good enough. The Virginia preservation community is rich with historic preservation resources. The National Trust for Historic Preservation funds projects across the United States.

VUU, you can do better! Demolition deprives us all of a true understanding of our history and shows a callous disregard in honoring the struggles of our ancestors. The conservation of Black history should be a priority for everyone, especially those institutions under a HBCU banner. If Black institutions don’t preserve Black history, then we are lost.

Viola O. Baskerville

The writer is a Virginia lawyer who served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1998 to 2005 and as secretary of administration in the cabinet of Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine from 2006 to 2010.