Until recently, Richmind Then and Now’s archive of Times-Dispatch articles has been my only source of info on old Fulton. Add Scott Davis’ 1988 The World of Patience Gromes: Making and Unmaking a Black Community to the list of essential Richmond history reads. Patience Gromes is a close look at the forces at work in Fulton […]
Until recently, Richmind Then and Now’s archive of Times-Dispatch articles has been my only source of info on old Fulton. Add Scott Davis’ 1988 The World of Patience Gromes: Making and Unmaking a Black Community to the list of essential Richmond history reads.
Patience Gromes is a close look at the forces at work in Fulton in the late 1960s, from the cultural inheritance of the residents, to the impacts of external forces of urban decline and government-sponsored urban renewal. In particular, the playout of the events that led to the demolition of Fulton are fascinating and heartbreaking.
From the publisher’s site:
A nonfiction narrative which traces the family of Patience Gromes across the century from the Civil War to the war on poverty. The story begins with her grandfather, who escaped from slavery at age 14. The final acts of the story are played out in Fulton, where Patience and her husband (and a generation of like-minded striving African-American folk) worked and lived and reared families and worshipped and died.
In the bleak years after the Civil War, free in name but economically subservient, the parents and grandparents of Patience Gromes designed a strategy for lifting themselves and their people: forgiveness, hard work, thrift, and land ownership. How would their ideals play out in the difficult years of Reconstruction?
After the turn of the century, Patience moved to Richmond, Virginia and to the working class shantytown of Fulton, built on the banks of the James River. Here she applied the high-minded notions of her parents. During years of lynching and Jim Crow, how would she fare? In Civil Rights, Patience organized, and her people won. Could Patience, the grandchild of a slave, survive the victory?
A book about values. The story of the Gromes family demonstrates that the tools which heal social disintegration are personal, mental, and available to any individual.
Patience Gromes gets to the detailed humanity of old Fulton in a way that I’ve not seen approached for any Richmond neighborhood. The Historic Registry applications give something of an idea of how we got to where we are (for example), but this book brings a level of understanding and focus that makes it all very understandable and very real.
My only issue with the book is the lack of photographs. With the housing having been completely torn down and the street grid redrawn, these decades later I need the visual help to see Fulton as it was. It was in looking online for photos of old Fulton that I stumbled across The Other Side of the Slum Story from the Dec.21, 1968 issue of The Richmond Afro-American, a concrete piece that only adds to the impact of The World of Patience Gromes.