Uncovering black history

Evergreen is one of Richmond’s four traditionally African-American cemeteries. At least one of the Old South Quartette’s singers was buried there. It is also the final resting place of many notable black Richmonders including the iconic Maggie L. Walker, America’s first woman bank president of any race. Since most African-American burials in Richmond in those days were undertaken without allowing for perpetual care, Evergreen has become overrun with briars and privet. Whilst visiting the city I learned that Marvin Harris (crouching in the photo) was organizing a cleanup of this sadly neglected site.  I got in touch to ask if he could keep an eye out for my list of names, and mentioned in passing that I might have some free time to help with the cleanup. He said he could pick me up at 6.45 am next morning. And so began one of the most rewarding half days I can remember. When I asked Marvin if he had relatives buried here, he said no. Asking the obvious question, why do you do it, I was stunned by his beautifully simple response. “It’s just the right thing to do.” Look him up, you won’t regret it.

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