RICHMOND — U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg came to Jackson Ward on Friday to herald a plan to reconnect the historically Black neighborhood, but he never made it to the highway that has divided the community for almost 70 years.
Buttigieg, accompanied by Gov. Ralph Northam and other Virginia Democratic leaders, walked down Leigh Street from the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia to the Maggie L. Walker historic site, a national landmark to the pioneering Black businesswoman who became the first woman to own a bank in the United States.
But the site of her former St. Luke Penny Savings Bank sits on the other side of Interstate 95, in a largely neglected part of Jackson Ward next to Gilpin Court, the oldest public housing community in Richmond.
During the walk down Leigh Street, Buttigieg saw where streets came to a dead end when meeting the interstate a couple blocks away.
On the other side of I-95, the poverty rate is twice as high and median household income is three times lower than the part of Jackson Ward south of the interstate, according to U.S. census estimates. And while the part of the neighborhood north of I-95 that includes Gilpin Court remains about 90% Black, 2020 Census data shows that overall, the historically Black neighborhood is now 52% white.