State Senate Supports Protection of Belmont Slave Cemetery

A bill approved by the State Senate today would allow the Loudoun Freedom Center to secure state funding to help with the restoration and upkeep of the Belmont slave cemetery.

Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-33) initiated the measure to designate the land at the southeast quadrant of the Rt. 7/Belmont Ridge Road interchange as Virginia’s third  “historical African-American cemetery.”

Toll Brothers, the developer of Belmont County Club, donated the land to the nonprofit Freedom Center last year amid new community interest in restoring and protecting the long-abandon graveyard. The 2.75-acre property is believed to have 44 burial sites, most marked by simple fieldstones.

While the state government has long protected Confederate cemeteries, the General Assembly recently voted to provide similar support for African-American cemeteries established before 1900. The East End Cemetery in Henrico County, with 4,875 graves, and the Evergreen Cemetery in Richmond, with 2,100 graves, were the first to be declared eligible for state funding.

If Wexton’s effort succeeds in the House, the African-American Burial Ground for the Enslaved at Belmont, as the site if formally known, will be added to that short list.

The law provides that nonprofits that own the cemeteries can request $5 per grave or an amount equal to the average cost of routine maintenance of a grave, whichever is greater. The law also allows the organizations to be considered by the General Assembly for grant funding to support larger renovation and repair efforts.

The bill was uncontested in the Senate and passed on a 38-0 vote.

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