An archaeological dig revealed the remnants of a notorious slave jail in Richmond. The groundbreaking discovery led journalist and Mary Washington graduate Kristen Green ’95 to use different tools to unearth information about Mary Lumpkin, a formerly enslaved woman who began her family’s quest for freedom on that site.

Green, an award-winning reporter and author, utilized the writing, critical thinking and rigorous research skills she honed through her college journalism courses to piece together a riveting portrait in her 2022 book, The Devil’s Half Acre (the jail’s nickname). Documents, deeds, death certificates and more weave a tale of a woman all but erased from the American narrative.

“We know figures like Harriet Tubman, but most enslaved women didn’t try to escape because they wouldn’t have left their children behind,” Green said. “Instead, Mary Lumpkin used her agency … to secure an education and freedom for her children, nearly a decade prior to the Civil War.”

Green will shed light on Lumpkin’s story on Thursday, Feb. 8, for the William B. Crawley Great Lives Lecture Series. A part of UMW’s 2024 Black History Month Celebration, Mary Lumpkin: Enslaved Woman, Liberator will be held in George Washington Hall’s Dodd Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Sponsored by LINKBANK, the lecture is open to the public and free of charge and will be posted online shortly after the event. Read more.