“It’s not restoration, it’s recovery”: sign recognizing 300 African Americans unveiled at Maple Hill cemetery

November 27-BLUEFIELD, Va. – A fence dividing a cemetery has fallen and years of overgrown vegetation have been removed, so now the sun and loved ones can find around 300 graves of people who helped build the town of Bluefield, Virginia.

An unveiling ceremony held at Maple Hill Cemetery on Friday recognized around 300 African Americans, some of whom had been enslaved. Their graves had long been overgrown and neglected in a part of the cemetery once known as the “colorful section,” said Susie Green of Bluefield, Va., Who is among many who worked on the project.

Some of the African-American birthdays date back to the 1830s, she said. In some cases, the visible monuments, constructed of concrete, were handcrafted by African Americans who used their skills as stonemasons and masons.

Those who assisted in the reclamation of the section and local dignitaries addressed those attending the dedication on Friday.

“This is not a restoration,” said former general manager Art Meade. “It’s a cover.”

To commemorate the history of the cemetery, a freeway terminal has been approved and issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. After the ceremony, attendees walked about a block to where the new marker is located at the intersection of Virginia Avenue and Deaton Street.

Descendants of people resting in a place that was once almost inaccessible due to weeds and other vegetation can now visit the graves of their ancestors. Leon Bradshaw has said the grave of his great-grandfather, Arthur Bradshaw and an ancestor his family calls Ima Bradshaw are there.

“What this means to me is that the people of this region realize that we are also part of this community,” he said after the unveiling of the new historical marker. “Now that the fence has been removed, the people of Bluefield, Va. Are getting along so well. “

At one time, people of different races were placed in separate sections of the cemetery, but now they are mixed up everywhere, Bradshaw said.

In the spring of 2022, a memorial will be unveiled at the African-American section’s current site, Green said. This memorial will consist of three granite stones that will list the names of more than 100 recorded African-American graves whose markers have been destroyed. The plan of the memorials includes benches and flower vases. Its date of consecration remains to be announced.

– Contact Greg Jordan at [email protected]

Contact Greg Jordan at [email protected]

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