RICHMOND, Va.- A burial ground believed to be one of the nation’s oldest municipal cemeteries for enslaved and freed Blacks is finally going to be restored.
Virginia Commonwealth University’s Board of Visitors on Friday approved the transfer of the African Burial Ground to the city, clearing the way for asphalt and gravel to be removed from the site in Richmond’s historic Shockoe Bottom, once a center of the South’s slave trade.
VCU visitors approved the transfer in advance of a $3.3 million reimbursement the university will receive from the state July 1 under a deal brokered by Gov. Bob McDonnell, Mayor Dwight C. Jones and VCU.
VCU had used a portion of the burial ground as a parking lot. Part of it also is believed to be under elevated highways that run through the city.
Tuesday, Jones and VCU President Michael Rao will attend a ceremony marking the beginning of work to memorialize the burial ground, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Saturday. Three contractors have donated their services to clear the parking lot.
Future plans for the site are not complete. The Richmond Slave Trail, interpreting key stops in the city’s trafficking of humans, is in the area.
VCU stopped parking on the portion of the lot thought to most likely contain graves, but the school kept 340 spaces for staff and students.
Four protesters were arrested in April when they attempted to stop cars from entering the lot. They viewed the parking as a desecration of hallowed ground.
An archaeological dig has not occurred at the burial site, and what remains beneath generations of fill is not known.
VCU bought the land in February 2008 for the parking lot. It relied on a state Department of Historic Resources report that determined that the burial ground extends only 50 feet into the lot.
The site was used during the mid-1700s to early 1800s.