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Volunteers work to clean up Richmond cemetery where enslaved are buried

HamCemetery.jpg
Posted at 9:37 PM, Apr 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-01 22:25:37-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Volunteers came together to clean up a historic cemetery on the Richmond-Henrico line Saturday.

The Sons and Daughters of Ham Cemetery is located between Bandy Field Nature Park and the University of Richmond.

The cemetery, which was established in 1873 by emancipated slaves after the Civil War, is the final resting place for an unknown number of people. However, many are believed to be the enslaved who toiled on the plantation of B. W. Green on Three Chopt Road.

The University of Richmond published a report on the nearby Westham Burying Ground in January of 2020.

"It is clear that the leadership of Richmond College and its board in the early 20th century, and of the University of Richmond in the 1940s and ’50s, knew of the burial ground," the university's president, Ronald Crutcher, wrote. "Yet on several occasions the College desecrated the cemetery as it moved forward with developing the campus."

Additionally, Paths to the Burying Ground, an independent year-long research project, explores the history of "what may have been a burying ground" and the lives "of those who were enslaved on the property."

"There is an undeveloped hill close to the center of the University of Richmond campus," reads a section of the introduction from Paths to the Burying Ground. "It rises up from the corner of a parking lot, shaded by pine and oak trees, then slopes down to the base of the university's gothic-inspired Steam Plant. Nothing marks it. One could spend years on the campus and never notice the place, yet evidence indicates that it sits at the heart of intersecting histories of enslavement and erasure."

The area was later home to an African American community known as Ziontown.

A nonprofit group, The Friends of Sons and Daughters of Ham, is working to preserve the cemetery. Click here to learn more about the historic site or if would like to volunteer.