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The Library of Virginia and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography Celebrate Black History Month

Lucy Goode Brooks
Born: 13 September 1818, probably in Richmond, Virginia
Died: 7 October 1900 in Richmond
Buried: Union Mechanics Cemetery, Richmond

The daughter of a slave and an unidentified white man, Lucy Goode learned to read during slavery, a skill she taught to Albert Royal Brooks, another Richmond slave whom Goode’s owner permitted her to marry on 2 February 1839. Lucy Brooks and her three youngest children were sold in 1858 to Daniel Van Groning, who allowed Albert Brooks to pay him in installments for their freedom. In Richmond’s business district, Lucy Brooks found three local men to buy her older sons. A fourth buyer purchased her eldest daughter, but he broke his pledge to keep her in Richmond and sold the girl to slavery in Tennessee.

Albert Brooks was a successful black businessman, but it took him four years to earn the money to buy his wife and three children. The deed of manumission was dated 21 October 1862. The older boys became free when the Union army occupied Richmond in April 1865.

After Emancipation, former slaves flocked to Richmond seeking work and looking for missing family members. Lucy Brooks saw children separated from their parents and abandoned by former masters. Having lost a daughter to the slave trade, she had a special concern for the plight of parentless children. A leader of the Ladies Sewing Circle for Charitable Work, she convinced the group that a home for orphans was a worthy project. She also obtained support from the local Cedar Creek Meeting of the Society of Friends and won the backing of several black churches.

The orphanage building was completed in 1871 on a lot deeded by the city three years earlier. The General Assembly incorporated the Friends’ Asylum for Colored Orphans in March 1872. The orphanage operated until 1932, when the organization became a child-placement agency working with foster families. In the twenty-first century, the renamed Friends’ Association for Children operates family support centers in Richmond. The Lucy Brooks Foundation, created in 1984 to raise funds for the association, was named in honor of its founder.

For further information, including a bibliography, see the full biography in John T. Kneebone et al., eds., Dictionary of Virginia Biography (Richmond, 1998– ), 2:272–273.

Additional reading:
Manumission in Richmond City Hustings Court Deed Book, 78A:393–394.

Charter and By-Laws of the Friends’ Asylum for Colored Orphans, in the City of Richmond, Va. (1883).

Obituary in Richmond Planet, 13 Oct. 1900.

Charlotte K. Brooks, Joseph K. Brooks, and Walter H. Brooks III, A Brooks Chronicle: The Lives and Times of an African-American Family (1989).

What important moment in Lucy Goode Brook’s life is represented by this document?