(WDVM) — Governors Ralph Northam and Larry Hogan joined with District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser on Monday, August 23, in King George, Virginia, for the first in-person meeting of the D,V leaders since the pandemic began. The three came together to take responsibility for a wrong that was committed against African Americans over 50 years ago and explain how it is being made right.
In the 1960s, D.C.’s most prominent African American burial site, the Columbian Harmony Cemetery, was moved to make way for commercial development (what is now the area where the Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood Metro station sits.) The deal was that the 37,000 graves at the burial site would be relocated to the National Harmony Memorial Park in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
During the relocation, not every grave marker made it to the memorial park. It is now discovered that most of the grave markers and monuments were sold for scrap or dumped for erosion-control rubble along the Potomac River.
Virginia Senator Richard H. Stuart discovered some of the headstones with his wife on their property. He explained, “She looked at me and she said, ‘Is that..’ and I finished the sentence, ‘A headstone,’ and we saw another one and another one and another one.”
Senator Stuart said seeing the sight made him feel like he had been punched in the guy. After turning to historians and other officials, it became clear where the gravestones came from.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said, “Those were people. They had families who loved them and to dump their headstones or sell them for some other use is dehumanizing.”
In response, Governor Northam created a 4 million dollar fund for the recovery and restoration of the headstones and the creation of a shoreline memorial.
“What we’re talking about is righting the wrong, and that’s our responsibility. That’s the responsibility of our generation,” D.C. Mayor Bowser said
“We’re taking a huge step forward as we officially transfer the first 55 of these headstones to the National Harmony Memorial Park,” Governor Hogan added.
Bringing the 55 headstones to their rightful place is just the beginning. The Virginia and Maryland National Guards will now be working together to recover more headstones and get them to the park as well.