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Bill would aid deteriorating historic African-American cemeteries

RICHMOND, Va. -- A bill that would help preserve neglected African-American cemeteries and gravesites in Richmond and Henrico County is headed to the General Assembly.

For years WTVR CBS 6 has profiled the deteriorating conditions at Evergreen Cemetery where numerous prominent African-Americans, including Maggie Walker, were laid to rest. The East End Cemetery has also been neglected and even vandalized over the years.

Evergreen Cemetery

Evergreen Cemetery

Maurice Fountain is one of the hundreds of volunteers who pulled weeds, cut tree branches and removed debris Saturday at Evergreen.

"This is a historically black cemetery. It's important to keep history alive,” Fountain said. "It's quite a lot of work to be done."

As years past, both of the cemeteries fell into disrepair.

There are thousands of graves on the more than 60 acres at the two properties, which are privately owned. That means it is up to the families of those buried there to maintain the plots.

"I imagine it could be very painful for people to have to come through and feel that people didn't care enough to... keep things maintained,” Fountain said.

To help keep the properties maintained, HB-1547 would set aside $35,000 in state funding for African-American cemeteries and graves in Henrico and the City of Richmond.

Volunteers rake and collect debris at Evergreen Cemetery.

Volunteers rake and collect debris at Evergreen Cemetery.

Marvin Harris, who helps coordinate the many volunteers at the cemeteries, applauded the state's effort and said it is long overdue.

"Hollywood Cemetery is receiving funds from the state," Harris pointed out. "Nobody could actually say, after taking a look at the conditions out here, they couldn't actually say no to it.”

Delegate Delores McQuinn, the bill’s sponsor, will present the proposed legislation to the Senate Monday before a vote on the measure.