Asphalt being removed from lot over slave burial ground

Published: May. 24, 2011 at 4:17 PM EDT|Updated: May. 24, 2011 at 8:32 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The asphalt is now being removed from what was once a VCU parking lot that covers a slave burial ground. But what will happen to that land now that it is being cleared?

This was a major day historically for the City of Richmond, the removal of the asphalt from a former slave burial ground is finally underway but we're told this is just the beginning.

As the African drum sounded, the asphalt was removed that covered a former African-American slave burial ground. Piece by piece, Mayor Dwight Jones and other city officials began the demolition and creation of a future memorial.

"From this point on the asphalt will be removed," Jones said. "We're going to sod it. We're going to seed it. It's going to become a very beautiful memorial place, a garden, a place of reflection."

And during today's ceremonial service, it was clear, this land is sacred -- and not just to African-Americans here in Richmond -- and will serve as a historical landmark.

"You can't forget about from whence you've come," said Clovia Lawrence. "I think for our ancestors to have fought and died for us to be where we are, have paved and built the nation and the world you can't forget that."

We're told that as construction begins today it should be completed within the next six to eight weeks.

That's just enough time for the younger generation to decide on what they want this area to be once all the asphalt is removed.

"We're actually going to plan on planting trees and starting gardens and actually letting it become part of the trail completely as an ending point and a good education point for even middle school classes," said VCU student Rainbow Bracey.

She was one of the students who protested when this ground was covered by asphalt. She and others are just thankful to see their history remembered.

And we did see representatives of the NAACP here today. They protested against VCU's president quietly and didn't stick around much afterwards but we do know that everyone is excited to see this project come into fruition.

The asphalt on a former VCU parking lot is being removed. It's the City of Richmond's way of paying homage to African Americans believed to be buried there.

The ceremony to memorialize what was once a slave burial ground started around 10:30 a.m. this morning and wrapped up around noon.  About 100 to 150 people showed up, including Mayor Dwight Jones, VCU's president, and a representative from Governor Bob McDonnell's office.

It started with a tribute to the African American ancestors buried here which everyone participated in. Then the mayor spoke and explained how important today is historically for the City of Richmond.

After that was the symbolic first removal of the asphalt.

A small portion of what was once VCU's parking lot was cut. Everyone that wanted to was able to break off a piece of the asphalt in honor of their ancestors buried here.

Some even laid flowers on the ground underneath and said a prayer to the deceased.

Representatives from the NAACP were here and quietly showed the disapproval for VCU's president. We did not see them here for long, however.

The removal of the asphalt is already underway.

We're told that this process should only take about six to eight weeks before it's completed and the grass here is planted.

From there we're told trees and flowers will be planted so this will be an area people can come visit and learn about history.

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