Below are the recommendations proposed by the Family Representative Council to guide future research, memorialization and interment activities of human skeletal remains and artifacts found in 1994 on the MCV Campus. Previous research suggests the skeletal remains represent over 50 individuals, mostly Africans and African Americans, who were discarded into the 19th-century East Marshall Street Well following their use as cadavers for medical training. 

The Family Representative Council presented final recommendations to the EMSW Project Planning Committee and the Richmond community on Dec. 13, 2018. The final report expands upon an interim report presented in 2016. 

Memorialization recommendations

  1. Physical memorialization of the EMSW Ancestors and their experiences at four locations within or near the Kontos Building. Most immediately, VCU should place signage indicating the excavation location and historical significance of the Ancestral Remains near the building entrance
  2. Construction of a significantly appropriate Memorial and an Interactive Learning Center at the site of interment.
    • Update: The EMSWP Memorialization and Interment Implementation Committee has begun research into the process of obtaining an RFP for memorialization. Additionally, discussions with the City of Richmond to explore and pursue interment options are ongoing.
  3. Establish an annual memorialization event to be observed by all medical students prior to undertaking their first anatomy class.
  4. VCU should develop formal guidelines for appropriate university actions, including community engagement, in the event of future discovery of human skeletal remains or material culture.
    • Update: The EMSWP Implementation Committees have established a subcommittee charged with working on policy development.
  5. Establish an “EMSW Memorialization Steering Committee” to assist with Request for Proposal (RFP) development and the vetting and selection of proposals.
    • Update: The EMSW Memorialization and Interment Implementation Committee was established in 2019.
  6. Initiate a formal study of: (1) the legacy of slavery within the history of the university and (2) mechanisms for redressing this legacy
    • Update: In 2020, the Virginia State Legislature passed HB1980. This bill formally asks several Virginia colleges and universities, including VCU, to research and redress their histories of slavery.

Interment recommendations

  1. Interment of all EMSW Ancestral Remains and associated artifacts underground at the African Burial Ground located in the City of Richmond
    • Update: The EMSWP is engaged with the proper institutional and city officials to investigate the steps necessary to inter the Ancestral Remains.
  2. An Interment Ceremony designed by funerary experts in western African burial traditions in consultation with the FRC
  3. Coffin boxes designed and crafted by West African artisans for burial of the Ancestral Remains and related artifacts
  4. VCU should establish an “EMSW Interment Steering Committee” to assist with Request for Proposal (RFP) development and the vetting and selection of proposals
    • Update: The EMSWP Interment Implementation Committee was merged with the Memorialization Implementation Committee in 2019.

Members of the Family Representative counsel cover ancestral remains to return them to Richmond

Research recommendations

  1. Return of all Ancestral Remains to the City of Richmond
    • Update: Completed in November 2019. Please find more information here: A Journey Home.
  2. Determine the feasibility of locating and retrieving EMSW ancestors possibly still located beneath the Kontos Building
  3. No further analysis of the Ancestral Remains or associated artifacts should take place prior to approval of an EMSW Project research agenda developed with community input.
    • Update: The Family Representative Council was convened in later 2021 to discuss options for sampling the Ancestral Remains. Based on their guidance, the EMSW Project hosted a virtual community update on Dec. 29, 2021, where researchers outlined their plans and feedback was accepted.
  4. Future analysis of artifacts associated with the EMSW Ancestors should involve only nondestructive methods.
  5. Research should include study of the long-term implications, impacts, and relevance of the East Marshall Street Well site history for contemporary African American medical experiences.
  6. DNA and microbial analysis of the Ancestral Remains should be undertaken for the specific purposes of: (1) reconstructing regional genetic ancestry; (2) assessing molecular sex of juveniles; (3) reconstructing health environments; and (4) identifying possible biological relationships with a targeted sample of living descendants.
    • Update: The Ancestral Remains were moved to a laboratory on VCU’s campus in January 2022. Here, researchers will begin to undertake the sampling necessary to build a set of data to be used for subpoints 1-4. This work is projected to continue until 2023.
  7. Establish an “EMSW Research Steering Committee” to assist with Request for Proposal (RFP) development and the vetting and selection of proposals.
    • Update: The EMSW Research Implementation Committee was established in 2019.