There are small signs that this is changing. In June 2016, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, a quasi-state agency set up to preserve open spaces, awarded East End and Evergreen a $400,000 grant. Most of the funds will go toward purchasing the properties and legal costs, so other money must be found to sustain the restoration.
Bills introduced in the General Assembly to provide any funds to save historic African-American cemeteries in Virginia have died — or been killed — in committee. Later this month, when the Legislature opens its 45-day session, Virginia’s lawmakers will have another chance to get on the right side of history. On Dec. 29, Delores McQuinn, a Democratic state delegate from Richmond, introduced House Bill 1547, drafted in collaboration with the administration of Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Beginning in 2018, it would allot roughly $35,000 a year to preserve historical graves and cemeteries “of African-Americans who lived at any time between January 1, 1800, and January 1, 1900.” The appropriation would become part of the Code of Virginia, just like the Confederate graves provision.
“These cemeteries hold some of the iconic leaders of the past who in many ways have never been given their due honor,” Ms. McQuinn told me. Funds have been earmarked for Revolutionary War and Confederate graves, which “deserve that honor and attention,” she said. “This is just extending it to sites that have been left out of the equation.” The amount of the appropriation is quite small. The symbolism, however, is huge.