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*The finished construction of the Belmead plantation is celebrated on this date in 1845. This is one of the estimated 46,200 American plantations that existed in 1860.
Built with African slave labor, it is located near Powhatan, Powhatan County, Virginia, and designed by architect Alexander Jackson Davis for Confederate general Philip St. George Cocke. After the American Civil War, it became the site of two Black Catholic schools, including the only military academy for Black males. From its earliest days, approximately 150 slaves worked the land, growing tobacco and grains.
In 1897, the property was conveyed to the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, headed by Saint Katharine Drexel, and opened as St. Francis de Sales School, an Black and Indigenous school for girls, in 1899. St. Emma Military Academy for boys, named after Katharine's stepmother, was opened on the property by Edward Morrell and his wife Louise (Katharine's half-sister). Together, the schools are credited with educating 15,000 Black students. The Belmead was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. The schools were closed in the early 1970s.