Joint Statement by the Richmond Slave Trail Commission and Virginia Commonwealth University

State, City and VCU leaders met July 14 at the state historic preservation office to hear the Department of Historic Resources' findings regarding the location and likely condition of the former Richmond Burial Ground for Negroes.  Meeting participants included General Assembly Member Dwight C. Jones, Richmond City Council President William J. Pantele, Council Vice President and Slave Trail Commission Chairman Delores L. McQuinn, Virginia Commonwealth University Vice President for Government Relations and Health Policy Don Gehring, VCU Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration John M. Bennett, VCU Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Brian J. Ohlinger, and DHR Director Kathleen S. Kilpatrick. 

Dr. Christopher Stevenson, archaeologist for the Department's Capital Region Preservation Office, presented an overview of the maps, documents, and interviews used in his research over the last several weeks.  The burial ground appears on only two versions of the same map produced in 1810, and that map has only the words "Burial Ground for Negroes" with no boundaries marked.  The burial ground is not shown on any earlier or later map of Richmond.  Based on the area covered by the words "Burial Ground for Negroes" on the 1810 map, and comparing other features of that map with both modern and historic maps and with aerial photographs of the area as well as records from the construction of Interstate 95, Dr. Stevenson was able to determine with reasonable certainty that a significant part of the burial ground lies under approximately 15-20 feet of fill beneath the north and southbound lanes of I-95.  Using the same techniques, it appears that only a small portion of the burial ground extends into the VCU parking lot.  Based on soil borings of the area, and comparison with the archaeological work done at nearby Lumpkins Jail, this portion of the burial ground appears to lie under about 8-10 feet of fill.

With these findings in hand, the group is turning its attention to the key question of appropriate treatment and memorialization of the burial ground.  The participants are examining opportunities and resources that can be brought to the task. The group will reconvene within the next weeks to develop a plan that addresses practical concerns and pays homage to this powerful chapter in the story of Richmond's African American community.  Those strategies will include public involvement and outreach.

Speaking on behalf of the Richmond Slave Trail Commission, Chairman McQuinn said, "The documentary evidence for the Richmond Burial Ground for Negroes is very compelling.  We are moving in the right direction and I look forward to collaboration as we work to find a way to memorialize this sacred place."

The Stevenson report, Burial Ground for Negroes, Richmond, Virginia: Validation and Assessment, is available at http://www.news.vcu.edu/pdf/SlaveCemeteryReport.pdf.