African American graveyards roundup

In the last few months, within the state of Virginia alone, I have heard from or about:

Related stories elsewhere have made headlines, such as the discovery that human remains from the bombing of Philadelphia’s MOVE community in 1985 had been held at the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University for teaching aids, without the family’s knowledge.

All of this points to a desperate need to account for and protect African American remains across the nation, an effort that requires more than local organizations. So Justin Dunnavant, Delande Justinvil, and Chip Colwell have proposed an African American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to mirror the protections put in place for indigenous remains in the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, signed into law in 1990. It would build on the African American Burial Grounds Network Act currently proposed in Congress to catalog existing institutional collections and pause the use of those collections until descendent groups have been contacted and consulted. Their proposal takes its cue from the model developed by anthropologist Michael Blakey at the New York African Burial Ground project, more recently implemented by Virginia Commonwealth University in the East Marshall Street Well Project.

Until such a system is in place, we can count on adding further tragic episodes to this listing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.