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Excavation of graves begins at site of colonial Black church
Archaeologists in Virginia began excavating three suspected graves at the original site of one of the nation’s oldest Black churches on Monday, commencing a months long effort to learn who was buried there and how they lived.
The First Baptist Church was formed in 1776 by free and enslaved Black people in Williamsburg, the colonial capital of Virginia. Members initially met secretly in fields and under trees in defiance of laws that prevented African Americans from congregating.
A total of 41 apparent burial plots have been identified. Most are 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 meters) long and up to 2 feet (0.61 meters) wide. The soil is discolored in places where holes were likely dug and filled back in. Only one grave appears to be marked, with an upside-down empty wine bottle.
Before excavations began Monday, a private blessing was held. Read more.