City of Richmond reacquires historic African American burial ground

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Burial Ground for Freed People of Color on North 5th Street was owned by the City of Richmond from its establishment in 1816 until it was sold to Sun Oil Company in 1960. Now just over 60 years later, the city is in possession of the land again.

The burial ground at 1305 North 5th Street included one acre for the graves enslaved people and another for free people of color. People were buried there until 1879.

The City of Richmond bid on 1.21 acres of the land in February and purchased it for $145,000. The land officially became city property on Friday.

Since the burial ground was established, it has had a complex history. The land was expanded and renamed at some points, at others it was desecrated and disrespected.

Bodies were stolen from graves at the burial ground in the mid-nineteenth century by people taking bodies to use as cadavers at the Medical College of Virginia.

When the city sold the public grounds to Sun Oil Company in 1960, there was no mention that the area was home to a cemetery. The company built a gas station on the property and later a billboard sat atop the burial plots.

According to a release from the city, they are going to work to identify funding and find a cultural resource management firm to research and investigate the land.

“This important acquisition is yet another step in our efforts to reclaim the hidden and abandoned history of the African-Americans who built this city,” said Mayor Stoney. “If we are to truly reconcile the shameful history of slavery and injustice and heal as a city and a nation, we must respect and honor the memories of those who lived and died under this oppression by telling their stories so they will not be forgotten.”

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