Remnants of Black church uncovered in Colonial Williamsburg
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) — The brick foundation of one of the nation's oldest Black churches has been unearthed at Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum in Virginia that continues to reckon with its past storytelling about the country's origins and the role of Black Americans.
The First Baptist Church was formed in 1776 by free and enslaved Black people. They initially met secretly in fields and under trees in defiance of laws that prevented African Americans from congregating.
By 1818, the church had its first building in the former colonial capital. The 16-foot by 20-foot (5-meter by 6-meter) structure was destroyed by a tornado in 1834.
First Baptist's second structure, built in 1856, stood there for a century. But an expanding Colonial Williamsburg bought the property in 1956 and turned it into a parking lot.
First Baptist Pastor Reginald F. Davis, whose church now stands elsewhere in Williamsburg, said the uncovering of the church's first home is "a rediscovery of the humanity of a people."
For more than 27 years, the African American Heritage Preservation Foundation (AAHPF) has advocated to mitigate the threat to endangered African American sites across the United States.
The Founder and President, E. Renee Ingram, was driven to save her family cemetery, the historic Stanton Family Cemetery, in Central Virginia, from a state highway improvement project that would have impacted the site. Working with community and state officials, her family was able to preserve the 49 burials and have the state highway department realign their improvement plans. Ingram's passion reached beyond her family's victory and she embarked on a mission advocating for the preservation of endangered African American sites across the country.
Now AAHPF locates, registers, and shares information for saving as many notable endangered African American Historic Sites as possible. Here's a list of many of those sites.
ANNAPOLIS, MD. — Rita Coates fought a feeling of panic as the water gushed toward the graves.
Coates, a longtime member of the Brewer Hill Cemetery Association, watched a torrent of stormwater wash over this historic African American graveyard last year, erasing the engravings on headstones and the legacies they represented.
"All the water was running through washing away the soil from the graves," Coates recalled in a recent interview with E&E News. "There were some grave markers that were so ruined or messed up that you could not tell the names on them."
Brewer Hill Cemetery is the oldest Black graveyard in Annapolis. It contains the remains of more than 7,000 slaves and freed African Americans who were not allowed to be buried alongside white people.
Maryland highway officials committed to avoid a historical African American cemetery when adding toll lanes to the Capital Beltway after 27 "probable" or "possible" unmarked graves were detected along the highway this summer, a state archaeologist said...