Ana Edwards

Faculty Spotlight: Ana Edwards

Assistant Professor, Department of African American Studies

Written by Daniel Sunshine, Postdoctoral Fellow, History Dept., and Associate Director, Health Humanities Lab


Ana Edwards has been championing the preservation of Black history in Richmond for more than two decades. She is the founder and chair of the Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project, a group that convinced the city to save Shockoe Bottom African Burial Ground, the original Black municipal cemetery in Richmond. Under her leadership, the Sacred Ground Project is working in collaboration with the City and other stakeholders groups to realize the restoration of the area to a place of remembrance. Inspired by Gabriel, who was executed nearby, Edwards hosts an annual gathering that commemorates Gabriel’s resistance against chattel slavery and connects it to community activism in the present. Edwards earned an M.A. in History from VCU, where she specialized in Public History with John Kneebone. As a scholar, she has published several papers on the landscape of Black history sites in Richmond.

Edwards has built a unique career at the intersection of academia, public history, and community activism. Having recently joined VCU, we are delighted to announce her partnership with the Health Humanities Lab at the HRC. Not only will she produce her own oral history research for the East Marshall Street Well Project, but she will serve as a mentor for student fellows in the lab.

Edwards joined VCU in 2023 from the American Civil War Museum at Tredegar. She teaches Introduction to Race and Racism in the Department of African American Studies, and she has taken on a new role with the East Marshall Street Well Project as their primary oral history interviewer. In that capacity, Edwards will interview the Family Representative Council, a community group which guides VCU in the burial, research, and memorialization of the victims of medical graverobbing by MCV in the 19th century. She will also record the testimony of VCU and Richmond officials who have contributed to the project. Health Humanities Lab student fellows will shadow Edwards as she completes her work, assisting in preparation for the interviews and the processing of the transcripts. The interviews will ultimately be stored in the VCU Library collection. Following her example, the fellows will also complete their own oral history interviews with current students and alumni. This is a special opportunity for VCU students to work alongside one of Richmond’s leading historians, as they tell a compelling story about race, medicine, and public memory.


Select Publications

  • Edwards, Ana and Matthew R. Laird. “Digging Truth: Archaeology and Public Imagination in Shockoe Bottom.” ch. 3, Advocacy and Archaeology: Urban Intersections. Editors: Diane F. George, Kelly M. Britt, PhD. United Kingdom: Berghahn Books, 2023.
  • "Robert Cowley: Living Free During Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Richmond, Virginia." Thesis. Virginia Commonwealth University, Department of History, 2020. Committee: Nicole Myers Turner, Ryan K. Smith and Michael L. Blakey.
  • “Shockoe Bottom: Changing the Public History Landscape of Richmond, Virginia.” chapter. Bending the Future: Fifty Ideas for the Next Fifty Years of Historic Preservation. Page, Max and Miller, Marla R. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. 2016.
  • “The Significance of Shockoe Bottom.” Ana Edwards, Phil Wilayto with contributors: editor Kelley F. Deetz PhD and Ellen Chapman, PhD. “Historic Black Lives Matter: Archaeology as Activism in the 21st Century," African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter: Vol. 15: Iss. 1, Article 1. 2015.