1867 in Richmond, a Baptist minister, Nathaniel Colver was looking for an empty land where he could build a school for training Black ministers.
After long walks through the streets, he met amongst a group of Black people, a fair-faced freed woman who almost looked like a white woman, Mary Jane Lumpkin, who said she had a place that will serve as a school, according to the school history as written by Reverend Charles H. Corey.
Mary Lumpkin was the widow of Robert Lumpkin, a Richmond slave dealer who owned a slave jail three blocks away from the Virginia state capitol that operated between the 1830s and the 1860s.
Robert Lumpkin owned and fathered five children with enslaved Mary Jane who he practically took as his wife. Although in his Will, he referred to her as “the one who resides with me.” Robert willed all his money and properties as well as the slave jail.
The jail was converted to a school after Nathaniel Colver acquired it on a three-year-deal to lease the jail house at $1,000 annually. The Infamous ‘
’ which was converted to a school house to train Black ministers later became the site of Virginia Union University at Lombardy Street, Richmond.
Mary Jane was born in 1832 was enslaved by Robert Lumpkin in her 8 years, and had her first child with him on her 13th years. She was believed to have had five or more children with Robert who loved and cared for her and the children. He willed all his properties and money to her. He sent her along with the children to Philadelphia before the civil war broke out.
Not much is known about her, but she was believed to had operated a restaurant in Louisiana with one of her daughters till her death in New Richmond, Ohio in 1905 at 72.