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Abstract

Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones had the noblest of intentions.

With Virginia’s capital having a poverty rate of nearly 25 percent, no one blamed Jones, a child of the sixties and preacher by calling, for trying to develop prime riverfront property to generate revenue to create more jobs, better schools, and housing.

But when Jones unveiled a proposal in 2013 that included building a new baseball stadium near one of the city’s historic slave burial grounds in Shockoe Bottom, it was, by all accounts, troubling to historic preservationists and Black community activists. “Shameful” was one of the words most often used.

Jones, the city’s second African American mayor after former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder, defended the proposal as a tool to combat poverty, a modern-day issue that he in religious terms likened to “an abomination” that needed, no required, the engagement of city government.

To that end, during his first administration, Jones unleashed an anti-poverty program that rivaled in tone all of the blue-ribbon commissions and groundbreaking studies that President Lyndon Johnson ordered during the 1960s. “The first point in dealing with the city’s poverty is to acknowledge that it exists,” Jones told the Washington Post. “Then we have to deal with the ramifications of that truth and find a strategy to change the history that we have in the city of Richmond.”

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