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Charlottesville plans to add temporary signage at Pen Park burial site

Pen Park in Charlottesville, Va.
Pen Park in Charlottesville, Va.(WVIR)
Published: May. 13, 2022 at 9:30 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville’s Pen Park has a roped-off section where historians believe enslaved people are now buried. Earlier this year, we showed you the area and introduced you to potential ancestors. Now, the city is working to mark the area properly.

Right now, Charlottesville staff are not planning a formal memorialization. But with golfers just a few steps away, the city wants to make sure they know exactly what’s behind the ropes.

A small, quarter-of-an-acre plot of fenced-off land near Pen Park’s 14th hole could be a mystery to passersby. It’s actually a piece of history.

“The parks and recs and golf course folks have set out a little bit of a stake in a roped area, but the city feels that it just needs to be kind of explained with the city sign,” Tom Chapman, a member of the Historic Resources Committee, said in an interview with NBC29.

On Friday, Chapman and the rest of the HRC discussed placing a temporary sign there.

“It’s not going to be a memorial or commemorative,” he said. “It’ll be basic information of why rope is defining this area.”

The text the HRC drafted reads: “Within this area are found the unmarked burials of men, women, and children enslaved on the Pen Park plantation between 1786 and 1865. Please be respectful.”

The sign also includes email and other contact information.

There is hope with this small, albeit important step. Community outreach is how Chapman and those involved with the Pen Park project have met descendants.

“Use this maybe as an opportunity to connect with more people,” Chapman said. “The process of the discovery is just as exciting and it can also be as just as revealing.”

Chapman said permanent signage with more information on what happened in the park will come when they learn more, and it will be done with heavy influence from descendants and ancestors.

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