BLUEFIELD, VA (WVNS)– An African American Cemetery in Virginia received a big honor on Friday, November 26, 2021, after years of neglect.
The African American Section of the Maple Hill Cemetery in Bluefield, Virginia unveiled a historical marker to recognize about 300 African Americans, including some who were enslaved. Town officials said the area was once neglected but has history dating back to the 1830s.
The marker was approved by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. It highlights the history and honors the people in the cemetery grounds for their contributions to the establishment of Bluefield, Virginia.
One of the project leaders, Susie Green made sure she kept the history of her and her descendants’ legacy alive.
“Today is a day that needed to happen. We had town officials here who realized the history and it’s not a pleasant time to look back, but we can move forward,” Green said.
Tazewell County Board of Supervisor Charlie Stacy offered a personal apology to the families that were present at the unveiling.
“As I look back here, the first thing that comes to mind I think is an apology that we shouldn’t have had to have an event like this. The folks buried behind me were as much as making Bluefield, Virginia what is it as much as the folks buried in front of me,” Stacy said.
After the ceremony, attendees walked one block to the intersection of Virginia Avenue and Deaton Street where the marker was unveiled. Mayor of Bluefield Donnie Linkous said this is still a work in progress.
“There’s about 100 people there that they don’t know where they’re located so it’s a work in progress and we’re gonna do everything we can to be able to mark those graves of the people that aren’t there now,” Linkous said.
In the Spring of 2022, a memorial will be unveiled at the actual site of the African American section of Maple Hill Cemetery. The memorial will consist of the names of over 100 recorded African Americans who were buried but whose markers were destroyed.