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So here is my mea culpa for the surprisingly few yet still annoying mistakes that are my fault in the mostly fabulous guidebook about Richmond I wrote, Insiders\’ Guide to Richmond.  (Whether you agree or disagree with the inclusion of such-and-such restaurant or the omission of some dance club I file somewhere else where I won’t be able to find it when I might need it. )

It became eminently clear to me as soon as it was too late for me to do anything about it that I should have put Richmond Free Press as an Alternative Weekly in the Vital Statistics. It’s unfortunate that being brain dead goes hand-in-hand with writing a guidebook. Occasionally when I wanted to go on auto-pilot I would turn to the Globe Pequot title the editors wanted me to follow–Houston–which should have told us all that we have a problem–and so I put in one alternative paper just like that author did. Dumb. Insensitive. Stupid. Doesn’t make me happy that I didn’t see that faux pas.

NEXT… I refer on occasion to the Forest Hill neighborhood as Westover Hills and I know those Forest Hill folks care. I got it right sometimes, but sometimes my brain just checked out. Most outsiders don’t care a whit about the distinction–if there’s a hill, they’re away–but I do know better and should have caught myself being dopey. 

Lastly?  I, in the guise of getting up to the minute updates on Maggie L. Walker’s year of birth–long reported as 1867, but due to the sleuthing of Elvatrice Belsches now incontrovertibly proven as 1864, I sloppily wrote that Walker was born a slave. No, she was born free, in the time of slavery.  UGH–for me not for her!  Similarly, I wrote that her mother was a slave–well she had been, but wasn’t at the time of Maggie’s birth.  Bums me out to get that wrong. I will shout the real deal from the tops of my tours though.

I do not like making mistakes. I was raised Catholic enough that you see my confession here. My penance isn’t writing this; it’s knowing I should have done better and didn’t.  I can take some comfort knowing that the list of the mistakes the publisher almost made that I caught and fixed is much, much longer (and included titling the book Indianapolis rather than Richmond).  Of course, it’s possible there are other errors that snuck on in.  I’d say let me know–but do I really want to know?

You have seen the signs for Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site for years on I-95. If you live in Richmond, you might think you know the basics about her, so you don’t think there’s anything to learn: African American, female bank president. High school named after her.  Ok, good for you, but forgive me for telling you– you don’t know half of what’s amazing about this woman.

GO to the National Park Service site! It’s her home with her library, her furnishings, and most impressive of all, her story, and it’s all free!  How she did what she did when she did is fascinating and inspirational. Not enough people know the impact she had in Richmond and throughout the country in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Some day I will prove that she and I are related. She and my grandmother look like twins–and they both had Irish fathers. Perhaps that’s my next book. Nevertheless, get thee to Jackson Ward! The Park Rangers are so cute and knowledgeable–tell them Maureen said hi. And grab lunch at Ettamae’s Cafe on 2nd St. or Mama J’s on 1st St. to make it quite the outing.

Maggie L. Walker's home is on Leigh St., but the entrance to the site is on 2nd St.

After lunch, head to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center where the Pride over Prejudice exhibit about the Maggie Walker/Armstrong rivalry is ongoing.

At 00 Clay St. Admission is charged but see below about a great deal

It also has worthwhile permanent exhibits that put Maggie Walker’s life story into a larger context and introduce you to other lesser-known Richmonders whose stories deserve to be known. Don’t balk at paying admission–get the Court End Passport for $10 that gets you admission to the Black History Museum, Valentine Richmond History Center, and John Marshall House for a full year!

 There’s a new way to get to know Richmond, and you’re welcome to come along on Real Richmond\’s next food tour which will meander by Maggie Walker’s house and the Black History Museum, among other notable spots.  On Saturday, Nov. 20th at 2 p.m.   The Wards: The Art & Soul of Richmond spans both sides of Broad Street to take in the art, architecture, and history of Monroe and Jackson wards while we walk the neighborhoods and sample food from Comfort, Ettamae’s, Mama J’s, Chez Foushee and Lemaire at The Jefferson. Taste and see!

I’m back!



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