Care for historic Black cemeteries in Hampton Roads depends on the locality. But city support can make a difference.
WHRO - Hampton Roads cities need state funding to care for Black cemeteries
Artistine Lang was president of a neighborhood association on the Peninsula. She put that on the back burner more than a decade ago, she said, and started focusing on caring for Pleasant Shade cemetery with her husband Rev. Darnell Lang.
They did fundraisers and organized volunteer cleanups of park, but it was a daunting task - to clean up and care for 20 acres of overgrown, marshy territory. Over the years, volunteers have come and gone, but the park is still in need of upkeep.
"We are trying, and hopefully things will change," Rev. Lang said. "But as it stands right now, it looks kind of bleak, I must admit."
Virginia has a program that funds maintenance for historic Black cemeteries, allotting $5 per grave. But as a private cemetery, Pleasant Shade doesn't qualify, even though it was the main cemetery for Black people across the Peninsula for decades.
The Gullah Geechee fight to preserve the tiny structures, a cradle of the Black church, before they're erased by sprawl, climate change and fading memories.
The Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) thanks the bipartisan group of lawmakers who secured inclusion of the African American Burial Grounds Preservation Act in the omnibus appropriations bill. This bill is expected to be signed into law by President Biden at the end of this week. Five years in the making, the effort in Congress was led by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and the late Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA).
Nobody working to bring a $346 million Microsoft project to rural Virginia expected to find graves in the woods. But in a cluster of yucca plants and cedar that needed to be cleared, surveyors happened upon a cemetery. The largest of the stones bore the name Stephen Moseley, "died December 3, 1930," in a layer of cracking plaster. Another stone, in near perfect condition and engraved with a branch on the top, belonged to Stephen's toddler son, Fred, who died in 1906.