Excavation of graves begins at historic Black church in Virginia
Excavation of graves begins at historic Black church in Williamsburg. - The Washington Post
Long-lost church in Williamsburg was once under a parking lot.
Archaeologists, blessed by community prayers and a reading from scripture, began to excavate graves this week at the long-lost site of the original First Baptist Church in Colonial Williamsburg, one of the oldest Black churches in the country.
Forty-one grave shafts have now been discovered at the site of the church, which was torn down in 1955 and covered by a parking lot because it didn't fit the town's Colonial motif.
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.