Protect Richmond's African American Cemeteries

Protect Richmond's African American Cemeteries

March 13, 2021
Petition to
Governor Ralph S. Northam
Signatures: 13,474Next Goal: 15,000
Support now

Why this petition matters

Started by Friends of East End

On March 10, forty Black Virginians sent Governor Ralph S. Northam an open letter expressing their alarm at developments at East End and Evergreen Cemeteries, two historic African American burial grounds in Richmond and Henrico County. The letter urges Governor Northam to take a series of crucial steps to protect these fragile sites.

The owner of the cemeteries, Parity LLC (a company established by the Enrichmond Foundation’s executive director), is moving forward with plans to build a park atop sacred ground, the sites of longstanding institutional neglect and vandalism. It is now negotiating right-of-entry agreements to city-owned Colored Paupers Cemetery and a portion of Oakwood Cemetery, which are adjacent to East End and Evergreen. Additionally, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation has just granted Parity/Enrichmond $150,000 in taxpayer money to purchase private property wedged between the cemeteries, despite many expressions of concern from descendants and other community members over the years.   

Parity/Enrichmond acquired East End and Evergreen with abundant assistance from the state, despite having no cemetery preservation experience or the capacity to lead the reclamation and restoration of these burial grounds. These deficiencies are evident in its haphazard stewardship of the cemeteries to date.  

Nearly four years after acquiring Evergreen and two years after acquiring East End, Parity/Enrichmond still has not presented a comprehensive preservation plan for the cemeteries. Its $19 million “master plan” for Evergreen sets aside no money for site documentation or consultation with historic preservation experts. It does, however, call for a $1.9 million visitors center, more than $1 million in utilities, and another $1 million in new plantings. 

Parity/Enrichmond’s plans pose a threat to these sacred sites. That is why we support the descendants’ call to halt the transfer of public funds to Parity/Enrichmond and to block any agreements that would put more Black cemeteries in Parity/Enrichmond’s hands. We urge Governor Northam to:

—Require Parity/Enrichmond to commission a proper cultural landscape report for all the cemeteries it owns or seeks control of, to be made available to the public and reviewed by the relevant state authorities.

—Provide all due diligence and other material upon which the Commonwealth has based its decision to subsidize and support Parity/Enrichmond’s acquisition of African American burial grounds.

—Convene public meetings to allow the community to deliberate on the future of these sacred sites with all of the necessary information in hand.

These demands are simple and straightforward. They amount to a request for transparency and basic respect: respect for descendants and other Black Virginians, for sacred burial grounds, and for ancestors whose dignity and rights were denied during their lifetimes. Richmond’s African American cemeteries should be transformative sites of real engagement with history and community-building, not places that perpetuate a legacy of paternalism and exclusion—a legacy that, thus far, has been all too evident in Parity/Enrichmond’s actions.

Support now
Signatures: 13,474Next Goal: 15,000
Support now

Decision Makers

  • Ralph S. NorthamGovernor