HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A bill working its way through the General Assembly could give state money to more historic African American cemeteries. The two lawmakers leading the charge on passing the bill are Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) and Del. Delores McQuinn (D-Richmond).
At the beginning of the legislative session in January, they filed House Bill 140 which would help Woodland Cemetery and other historic African American cemeteries founded after 1900, get state funds for preservation and restoration.
The bill changes the establishment date of eligibility from 1900 to 1948, the same year the Supreme Court struck down racially segregated cemeteries. Eligible cemeteries will receive money from the Virginia Historical African American Cemeteries and Grave Fund.
The Woodland Cemetery was founded in 1916 and sits along the Richmond and Henrico County line.
Since 2016, dozens of volunteers have spent time revitalizing the cemetery. Volunteers told 8News the additional support could help them clear away brush, recover sunken gravestones and do further research.
John Shuck, the volunteer coordinator, said though they’ve made progress, they still need volunteers and money.
“Every stone dug out is potentially another family member now that they can reconnect with the cemetery, but again all these stones we dig out are going to have to be maintained around here and that’s what the money with the bill would help with,” he said.
Shuck said money from the state, in addition to grant money from Henrico County, would help to discover more of the cemetery’s history.
“One gentleman came out a while back looking for his grandparents grave. I took him over to it and he said ‘You made my day. No you made my month,” he said.
Shuck said they’ve uncovered 4,200 headstones so far, but he believes there may be about 30,000 people buried on the land.
The bill still has to pass in both the house and senate before heading to the governor’s desk, who ultimately will decide whether or not to sign it into law.