“Knowledge of this cannot be hidden” at the University of Richmond

The University of Richmond has recently installed interpretive signage for a burying ground for the enslaved that dates back to the West End campus’s previous usage as a plantation. It is located near the center of campus at the base of the steam plant. The university has also convened a Burial Ground Memorialization Committee, chaired by Ed Ayers and Keith McIntosh to plan a more permanent memorial.

The effort builds on a report on the burial ground’s history authored by faculty member Lauranett L. Lee and graduate student Shelby M. Driskill and titled “‘Knowledge of This Cannot be Hidden’: A Report on the Westham Burying Ground at the University of Richmond.” It is an exceptionally thorough report. Driskill’s earlier Paths to the Burial Ground project offered a unique online exhibition of the evidence.

The burial site initially was part of the Green Plantation but became associated with the freedpeople’s settlement of Ziontown following the Civil War. Human remains were found in the area of the burying ground several times but, following patterns that are all too familiar, were disregarded following discovery.

University faculty and students have also recently tended to the previously neglected Sons and Daughters of Ham Cemetery, which has deep roots in the African American community, on the north side of campus.

With these steps, the dead have intervened in an otherwise self-enclosed, modern campus.

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