CAIR Backs Bill To Protect Historic African-American, Native Cemeteries In Virginia

protect historic African-American and Native American cemeteries in Virginia.
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(WASHINGTON, D.C.– The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, Thursday expressed support for a bill in the Virginia General Assembly that would help protect historic African-American and Native American cemeteries.

Act Now: Click here to urge your elected representatives to support HB 961

Introduced by House Delegate Danica A. Roem (D), HB 961 (Cemeteries; registration, publication prior to sale), would tighten requirements for notification of heirs before the sale of property containing graves. The House Counties, Cities and Towns Sub-Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow to consider the legislative measure.

HB 961 requires “every locality to adopt an ordinance setting forth a register of identified cemeteries, graveyards, or other places of burial located on private property not belonging to any memorial or monumental association.”

It also provides “that the governing body shall publish a notice in a newspaper having general circulation in the locality at least two weeks prior to the sale of any property on such registry, or as soon thereafter as possible, and shall also publish the notice on the locality's website, if one exists.”

“We encourage state and local governments to do all they can to protect historic gravesites and cemeteries that are often threatened by development or sale without the knowledge of the descendants of those buried on the properties,” said CAIR Director of Government Affairs Department Robert S. McCaw.

McCaw noted that last year, CAIR welcomed a vote by Virginia’s Prince William Board of County Supervisors to purchase land in the Thoroughfare, Va., community on which historic African-American and Native American cemeteries are located.

Those cemeteries are the final resting places of at least 300 enslaved people, freedmen/freedwomen and Native-Americans.

He added that CAIR has joined calls for a stay on development activity in the historic area and has supported the preservation of such sites nationwide.

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