News | Feb. 7, 2019

Honoring Black History Month: African-American slave cemetery on grounds of DSCR

By Leon Moore DLA Aviation Public Affairs

As you drive or walk around Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, it’s easy to overlook a landmark site across the street from the Bettye Ackerman-Cobb Child Development Center. Inside a small, fenced in patch of earth are the remains of six African-Americans, three women and three men. They are believed to have been slaves.

 

They are nameless. The only words etched on their triangular headstones, resting neatly in two rows, are their race, gender and an estimate of how old they were when they died. It’s estimated they were buried between 1840 - 1920.

 

DSCR occupies one of the oldest inhabited parcels of land in the country. Richard Gregory, one of the wealthiest landowners and largest slaveholders in the county, owned 1,000 acres of land that encompasses DSCR from 1797 until 1847, when it passed to his daughter Lavinia and her husband Major Augustus Drewry.  

 

The 1870 census from this area recorded African-Americans with the surnames of: Palmer, West, Brightwell, Frent, Prow, Orange, Armstrong, Jefferson, Borseaux, Grammar, Drewry and Gregory.

 

Workers unearthed the remains during the building of the CDC in 1998. After failed efforts by installation leadership at the time to find any possible descendants of the six, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources gave DSCR the ok to rebury the remains. A full re-interment ceremony was held in 1999.

 

While little is known about the six men and women, a plaque outside the gates of the slave cemetery proclaims their importance. “They are now officially part of the DSCR family. May they watch over us as we do our part to keep the nation strong and diverse.”