HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — Congressman A. Donald McEachin is introducing a federal bill to help preserve African American burying grounds and other burial sites across the nation.
McEachin held a news conference about the bipartisan bill at the University of Richmond, which is the final resting place for an unknown number of enslaved people.
The university's president said in 2020 that research turned up evidence that over the course of a century, university officials uncovered burial remains at the site of a former plantation lying beneath the campus.
"When you look and see that it just looks like a park setting," McEachin said pointing to a chained off area of patchy grass, dirt and branches next to a sidewalk. "It’s the residue of slavery and Jim Crow, it’s the residue of the racist environment this country was founded on."
University officials said they are in the process of doing more to memorialize the site.
McEachin said that while the country has done a good job to preserving a portion of history, he feels the nation has done a "poor job of preserving all history."
McEachin said his African American Burial Grounds Preservation Act would give the National Park Service $3 million a year to allocate to organizations preserving African American and other burial sites.
“We are turning the page. We are doing better and this is part of the effort to make this a more perfect union,” he said.
The effort is being met by years-long efforts in Virginia. There is a proposal in the state budget to would give the House and Senate $5 million to allocate toward the cause, according to officials. However, that is not finalized.
Va. State Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D-Chesterfield) of the 10th District has been part of the fight for this issue.
“This work is a good companion to the work at the federal level,” Hashmi said.
Del. Delores McQuinn (D-Richmond) said she feels this is a step towards dismantling systemic racism.
McEachin hopes the bill will make it to President Joe Biden's desk by the end of the year.