Randy Blythe Commemorates Black History Month by Photographing Two Black Cemeteries in Richmond
Randy Blythe is in limbo until he returns to the Czech Republic on March 4th to finish up his manslaughter trial, but he’s using his time back home wisely, exploring old haunts and new corners alike of his native Richmond, VA. He’s been posting a lot of photos on Instagram: check this series of photographs taken in the city of Prague and this set of the prison there in which he was held . And let me tell you something; we’ve been posting these photos not just because Blythe is in a popular metal band (although obviously that’s got something to do with it) but because the photographs are actually really, really good, as are the commentaries he posts along with each one.
Blythe’s latest set commemorates Black History Month by taking us on a visual tour of two very old African American cemeteries in Richmond.
February, besides being the month I was born (yeeeeeeah boy!), is also Black History Month here in America. While I am definitely not black (in case y’all couldn’t tell), I am a great lover of history of all sorts- where ever I am in the world, I try to learn a bit about the history of the place. Right now I happen to be at home, and I live in Richmond, VA- you can’t spit without hitting something historical in this town. So today, in honor of Black History Month, I visited two very old African-American cemeteries here in Richmond. The results were both amazing and infuriating to me, as these pictures will show. Here is an abandoned plot in the woods of the East End of RVA.
The first cemetery I visited was Woodland. Up until about 1970, cemeteries in the city of Richmond were segregated- blacks had to be buried in privately owned cemeteries such as this. Woodland was originally a prestigious place for members of the RVA black community to be laid to rest, and many doctors, lawyers, Civil rights leaders, even a black spy for the Union during the Civil Ear are buried here. Parts of the cemetery are pretty well maintained, but others are over-grown with weeds. The tennis player, Arthur Ashe, is buried here- he has the nicest grave in the joint.
As I walked around Woodland, I started to notice a few things that really disturbed me. One was that many, many, many graves of servicemen, guys who had served in WWI, WWII, & the Korean War were completely overgrown, some neglected it looked like for years. Tombstones were knocked over, buried in the dirt, sitting all crooked at crazy angles. These men had served our country in those brutal wars, & they had done it during a time when being in the military was even HARDER because they were black. Black, white, yellow, red, brown….hell, you could be purple, I don’t care- no matter WHAT your color- man, if you did time in freaking WORLD WAR ONE?!?!? Your grave deserves a little RESPECT.
I had to go tromping well into the woods to see these guys- a WWI vet buried right behind a WWII vet- they were tucked way back, covered in branches and leaves and stuff. The overgrown parts of the cemetery made for amazing pictures, but I didn’t like seeing these men’s remains being treated that way. They deserve more dignity. There is only one caretaker at this cemetery, & it’s pretty big- he has his work cut out for him for sure. I think the families of these men should come tend their graves (like my family does our small family graveyard), & in addition the city should do something about it. This was only a private black cemetery because of the segregation laws- those days are over- COME ON, Richmond City Hall- take care of our historic sites… ALL of our historic sites.
The other thing that really bummed me out at Woodland Cemetery was the amount of trash surrounding it- people have been dumping garbage RIGHT IN THE CEMETERY basically- at one end there was a huge pile of rubbish just 10 feet away from the grave of a WWII Navy vet. This REALLY pissed me off- it was on city property, not the cemetery’s. Apparently Henrico County & Richmond City can’t decide WHOSE property it is, so neither of them will pick it up- they just call the cemetery manager to complain. Damn, it’s not his job to stop assholes from dumping shit on public property- he has enough to do as is. So trash from this crap just blows into the graveyard. I decided to grab a trash bag from my truck and filled it up with crap while I was walking & shooting. I stopped and shot this grave- dude drowned during WWI- he stone says “Gone but not forgotten”- it looked pretty covered up with grass & stuff, so I wiped it up & picked up the trash near it. Tomorrow I will put up pictures from an even older black cemetery in Richmond- it’s pretty nutty.
Thanks for sharing, Randy. Keep up the good work. What kind of camera are you using? Those ain’t no iPhone snapshots.