Researchers discover part of University of Richmond built over slave burial grounds

Updated: Aug. 12, 2019 at 6:19 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The southeastern side of the University of Richmond is home to buildings like Puryear Hall and the Boatwright Memorial Library. Now, it’s possibly home to an even more historic site: a slave burial ground.

The university’s newspaper, The Collegian, originally reported that University researchers came upon the find while conducting other research on the campus.

They discovered that parts of the land belonged to a former plantation owner, and the burial ground is located behind Puryear Hall.

A representative for the university said in a statement that they “will use ground-penetrating radar to survey areas on the campus that may contain historic burial remains,” adding that the research that originally lead to the discovery will continue.

An archaeologist with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources says finds like these aren’t very common.

“I usually receive one to two phone calls a week from homeowners or property owners who have been looking in the woods, and they find a cross or a tombstone,” said Joanna Wilson Green said.

She adds that they’ve archived

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources usually provides insight on how to build around historic lands, or how to use them to engage with local communities.

Wilson Green adds that slave burial sites aren’t commonly found because usually wasn’t any documentation, and that this sort of find is crucial in painting a proper picture of the Commonwealth’s history.

“To find a resource like this is a way of confirming that ‘Yes, they existed.’ They were here, they built this landscape, and this is a tangible historic resource that belongs to their descendants and reminds all of us that that this group of people was here, and was a part of Virginia history,” she said.

The university later said in their statement that after more research is done and verified, they plan to “memorialize in some way those enslaved people and to support ongoing work to represent meaningfully this history and information at the University.”

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