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Burial Ground Suit Dismissed

Judge tosses out Sa'a El-Amin's lawsuit against the state over a controversial slave burial ground in Shockoe Bottom.



Former City Councilman Sa'ad El-Amin has lost round two in his fight to uncover a former slave burial ground in Shockoe Bottom.

Earlier this year, El-Amin filed suit against the state Department of Historic Resources and its director, Kathleen Kilpatrick, demanding that they be required to excavate and determine the burial ground's specific location. On July 1, however, the original suit was tossed out and El-Amin amended the lawsuit a month later.

Identified as “Old Negro Burial Ground” on an 1810 city map, preservationists and historians say the burial ground is likely underneath Interstate 95 north of the 17th Street Farmers' Market. But a recent study suggest that a 50-foot-wide section of the burial ground may extend under a recently paved over lot now owned by Virginia Commonwealth University.

On Wednesday, Richmond Circuit Court Judge Clarence Jenkins dismissed El-Amin's petition, ruling that state law does not compel the state to establish the site's exact boundaries.

Folllowing the judge's ruling, El-Amin declined to say whether he plans to appeal. It's also not immediately clear how the dismissal will impact another lawsuit, which he filed against VCU President Michael Rao and the university in late September. In that suit, El-Amin charges VCU is illegally “desecrating” the slave burial ground by using a portion of the site as a parking lot. For more on that story, click here.

VCU spokesperson Pam Lepley declined comment, citing a policy of not discussing pending litigation.

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