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McAuliffe signs bill preserving historic black cemeteries

Governor McAuliffe today signed HB 1547 to provide for the maintenance of 6,975 historic African American graves, monuments, and markers at the East End Cemetery and Evergreen Cemetery.

terry mcauliffeAt the ceremony, the Governor also signed a second bill (HB 2296) directing the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to preserve and share significant sites and stories relating to the history of enslaved peoples in the Commonwealth. Both bills were patroned by Delegate Delores McQuinn on behalf of the Governor and passed unanimously in the General Assembly.

“Unlike Confederate cemeteries, Black gravesites have gone centuries without state funds allocated for their maintenance and preservation,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe. “Today, we are taking steps to reverse injustices the African American community has faced for generations. These two bills represent a new beginning and present an opportunity to make this Commonwealth a more inclusive, more just place for all its citizens.”

Since the Civil War, Virginia has provided considerable resources to preserve Confederate gravesites. In addition to annual payments to support recurrent maintenance needs, the Commonwealth has made considerable onetime investments including an $8,000 appropriation to Hollywood Cemetery in 1914, the equivalent of $190,000 in today’s dollars. The state also provided $30,000 in 1997 to restore Confederate graves at Oakwood Cemetery, a close neighbor to multiple long-neglected African American burial grounds.

“Today was an amazing day as Governor McAuliffe signed House Bills 1547 and 2296,” said Delegate Delores McQuinn. “These historic bills received unanimous support from the General Assembly and will help to bring balance to Virginia’s rich history, as well as serve to advance, illuminate, and preserve the history and stories of enslaved  African-Americans here in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

   
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