HERE & NOW: Modern Ideas of Slavery in Correlating Historical Landscapes

In the mid-1800s, Richmond VA was the largest source of enslaved Africans on the east coast of America. "Visitors to Richmond today have no way of seeing these stories, and residents have few ways of marking them." The stories of these spaces are worth recalling, as part of our own representational spaces.

In this two part series by 50 Shades of Black featured artist Breonca Trofort, we recall these stories and discover ways these spaces are part of our own narrative.


Silas Omohundro’s Negro Slave Jail - 17th & E. Broad Street 

Photo by Breonca Trofort from her series HERE and NOW

Photo by Breonca Trofort from her series HERE and NOW

Popularized by the Hip Hop culture, the male fashion statement of “sagging” is often displayed through young men wearing pants revealing their underwear, while usually being overly accessorized with jewelry, mostly chains. “Sagging” was adopted from the United States prison system where belts are prohibited to keep prisoners from using them as weapons or in committing suicide by hanging themselves. This style has become a symbol of freedom and their rejection of the mainstream society. Also popularized by hip hop artist are the use of wearing chains. Chains, primarily used in the past as a form of bondage, has now become a symbol of wealth. Since these ideas can easily be linked back to prisons, I decided to photograph this person at Silas Omohundro’s Negro Slave Jail located on 17th and E. Broad Street, present day Exxon Gas Station. 

"This exploration has given me another way to look at history, realizing the cycle that the past continues to play on the present."

-Breonca Trofort 

Slave Auction - 15th & E Main St

Photo by Breonca Trofort from her series HERE and NOW

Photo by Breonca Trofort from her series HERE and NOW

Common in the African American community, young males are often taught that the only way they can be successful is through becoming a rapper or an athlete. Mainstream media often glorifies these professions and young children believe that is all they can become. I decided to photograph this young child holding a basketball in the location of where a slave auction was held, in order to describe how the process and system of becoming a college-athlete and/or pro-athlete has been compared to a slave auction. Setting aside the hard work and determination that athletes pursuing this dream endure, it is commonly stated that the professional sports "drafts" are looked at as an auction. During drafts, primarily wealthy institutions predominantly owned by white men are "buying" the persons (predominantly black athletes) they feel will "work" the hardest and benefit their business the most.

Stay Tuned for Part 2

Breonca Trofort is one of four Lead Artists of 50 Shades of Black. She is a sports and portraiture photographer for commercial and editorial clients.

Posted on July 2, 2015 and filed under art, education, Masculinity, activism.