HAMPTON, Va. - Gov. Ralph Northam told those who gathered at a historic African American cemetery it's time to right a wrong in Virginia's history.
On Friday, Northam signed an easement preventing anyone from ever disturbing the Tucker Family Cemetery in the Aberdeen section of the city. In addition, the cemetery will get a $100,000 grant for preservation and improvements.
Long neglected, the cemetery is named after William Tucker, who is believed to be the first child born to Africans brought to North America in the 1600s. Today, Tucker's descendants came back for the special ceremony. "It's an important day for us," said Vincent Tucker, a descendant and president of the William Tucker 1624 Society, an organization taking care of the cemetery.
The cemetery's history dates back hundreds of years, but exactly how far isn't known. Recently, more than 100 sunken graves were discovered. Right now, an orange flag marks each one and more testing will be done to learn about them. "We're just going dig deep and see what history turns up," said Tucker.
"While we may never know the stories of each human being buried in those graves, we can acknowledge that they were here on this each and they were laid to rest here," said Gov. Northam.
Next year will mark the 400th anniversary of the first African slaves coming to North America. Northam says Friday's ceremony is one of many steps to acknowledge Virginia's sometimes painful history. "We want to do everything we can to make sure that we allow people to relive that history, so that we never go back," said Northam.