Author: RyanSmith

  • State funding extended for African American graves

    Last week, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed into law Senate Bill 477 and House Bill 140, together the work of Senator Jennifer McClellan and Delegate Delores McQuinn. The new rules expand the basis for eligibility under the Virginia Historical African American Cemeteries and Grave Fund. Previously, the state provided maintenance funding for the total number…

  • A moment to celebrate for Shockoe Hill

    Hooray! This morning, the state review board and the board of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources at their quarterly meeting both unanimously approved our nomination of the “Shockoe Hill Burying Ground Historic District,” for listing on the Virginia landmarks register. This step moves the nomination forward to the National Park Service for listing on…

  • Discovering unmarked graves at East End Cemetery

    East End Cemetery, like the adjoining Evergreen Cemetery, the city’s “Colored Paupers Cemetery,” and so many other historic African American cemeteries, features a very large number of unmarked graves. Starting in 2013, the volunteer Friends of East End Cemetery pushed back the overgrowth to uncover and identify over 3,300 grave markers at East End, all…

  • Women Writers Buried in Virginia

    There’s a new book on the area’s cemeteries to celebrate: Sharon Pajka’s Women Writers Buried in Virginia, published in November 2021. Sharon is a faculty member in the English Department at Gallaudet University and an exceptionally creative and kind colleague. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia and a graduate certificate from the…

  • Vandalism at Hebrew Cemetery

    In the first week of November, I walked through Richmond’s Hebrew Cemetery to take some photographs of the area for study. The site and those around it continue to fascinate, and one student in my undergraduate classes this semester is pursuing a research project related to the cemetery. But only a few steps inside the…

  • “Gravediggers” at Oakwood Cemetery

    The word on the street is that “Gravediggers” (alternatively titled “Raymond and Ray”) starring Ethan Hawke and Ewan McGregor is filming at Richmond’s Oakwood Cemetery this month. The casting call for extras can be seen here. Apparently, the story centers on two troubled half brothers. It is unclear which elements of Oakwood Cemetery appealed to…

  • Approaching the National Register – Shockoe Hill

    The Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground — what I had referred to as Richmond’s “second African Burial Ground” in my earlier publications — has been increasingly gaining publicity. This is largely due to the untiring efforts of descendant/researcher Lenora McQueen, who has enlisted valuable support from Preservation Virginia, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the…

  • Shockoe Bottom Small Area Plan – and big ideas

    The city of Richmond has recently released a draft Shockoe Bottom Small Area Plan. It was designed with input by the by the many public and private partners in the Shockoe Alliance, a group put together by Mayor Levar Stoney in 2019 and “charged with guiding the design and implementation of concepts and recommendations for…

  • Disappointing preservation plans

    What makes a good preservation plan for a historic cemetery? I can point to several examples: the report prepared by Michael Trinkley, Debi Hacker, and Sarah Fick in 1999 for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the City of Petersburg, titled “The African American Cemeteries of Petersburg, Virginia: Continuity and Change“; the preservation plan…

  • African American graveyards roundup

    In the last few months, within the state of Virginia alone, I have heard from or about: Fluvanna County Historical Society‘s recovery efforts at two nineteenth-century burial grounds for African Americans: Oak Hill Cemetery in West Bottom, and Free Hill Cemetery in Columbia A neighborhood movement to protest a casino proposal adjoining historic black graves…