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John Shuck shows a before/after of the East End Cemetery transformation

10 comments

Kathi Sanders 07/11/2018 at 6:15 AM

Amazing work!! I go through that area via bike about once a month and I’m so impressed by the work that has been done.

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Mike Mewhirter 07/11/2018 at 8:39 AM

#goats

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TBoyd 07/11/2018 at 8:41 AM

Great job. Thanks to you and all the volunteers.

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Eric S. Huffstutler 07/11/2018 at 10:06 AM

For nearly 10 years, John Shuck has been devoted to cleaning up both cemeteries but has focused his energies on East End, which is only 16 acres versus Evergreen which is 60 acres. If I was physically able to help, I would but he needs volunteers since this is an endless task of maintaining their work as well as attacking new ones. There are no perpetual care funds to maintain the graves and few, if any, family members maintain their own or it would not have ended up the way it is.

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Jason S 07/11/2018 at 12:20 PM

WHOA! AMAZING!!! Thank you to all the people who have made this happen!

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nadine 07/11/2018 at 3:03 PM

Awesome!

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Erin Hollaway Palmer 07/12/2018 at 8:43 PM

Thank you, Gustavo, for reposting John’s before-and-after photos. The transformation is the result of five years of sustained volunteer effort at East End. So many people have pitched in — students and their teachers, children and their families, church groups, local businesses, individual members of the community, friends near and far. Some families with loved ones interred at the cemetery have maintained their plots for years, if not decades — even when they could barely whack their way through the overgrowth. Others have been searching for years for relatives’ graves. The real culprit here is not the lack of a perpetual care fund. It’s Jim Crow. Both were founded at a time when white people barred African Americans from burying their dead in cemeteries such as Hollywood and Oakwood. They were founded right before the Virginia state constitution was rewritten with the express purpose of disenfranchising African American men. Public money STILL supports the maintenance of Confederate graves at Oakwood and thousands of others across Virginia. How much public money has been directed to East End? Not a penny, in spite of legislation signed last year. East End and neighboring Evergreen cannot be understood outside this context.

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Eric S. Huffstutler 07/13/2018 at 6:58 PM

@7 Erin Hollaway Palmer.

Have you read my articles about these cemeteries?

The difference between state government funds going to Oakwood versus East End (and Evergreen) is that Oakwood is owned by the city while East End is privately owned. The owners could tell John to vacate the premises at any time but they won’t. It did happen at Evergreen though.

Also, these cemeteries were developed as African-American cemeteries from the beginning. But over the years, and it was written about many times in the Times-Dispatch, that a call was sent out by the various cemetery owners for help to maintain the land and graves asking both churches and families but no one would respond. There was and is a disconnect between family and their ancestors lying in the cemeteries… a total lack of interest except for a few. Keep in mind that there are around 5,000 graves in Evergreen but you see how it looks from nearly 50 years of neglect.

And, cemeteries usually charge for perpetual care but Evergreen and East End never did. It was up to the families to take care of them.

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Eric S. Huffstutler 07/14/2018 at 11:29 AM

I do want to add that there are (were?) funds available for the preservation of graves in East End and Evergreen cemeteries but are they being used?

On March 3, 2016, HB 1547 was passed that distribute funds to organizations to assist with the cleanup. There is a caveat though. Eligible cemeteries will receive at least $5 for each grave, monument or marker for an individual “who lived at any time between January 1, 1800, and January 1, 1900.” They also add that out of the 5,000 graves in Evergreen that only around 2,100 qualify since there are burials in the old section upwards to the 1970s. And other restrictions as to who can apply for the funds. East End would benefit the most. I think they have their numbers swapped though since they say that nearly 4,900 graves in the “East End” qualify which is the smaller cemetery. It comes out to less than $35,000 annually for 6,975 approved graves.

Also, governor Terry McAuliffe a couple months later, was to sign off on a grant of $400,000 state money to the group Virginia Outdoor Foundation (VOF) but did that ever come about?

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Eric S. Huffstutler 07/14/2018 at 11:58 AM

Sorry, I want to add one more comment since this statement bothers me. “who lived at any time between January 1, 1800, and January 1, 1900.”

That could read someone who was born between that time but I interpret it as lived and died between those dates. It is not clear. But if it does, in fact, mean they “lived” past tense then this makes no sense. The cemetery is overgrown. How do you know which grave falls into that bracket without uncovering others? And, if the funds are to be used for “only” those dated graves, does this mean that someone who died in 1899 will be cleaned off while someone who died in 1900 will not? And how about all of the graves that fall between 1900-1970? The uncleared one will just overtake the cleared ones again and defeats the purpose of the funds in the first place. But then, they give numbers of graves in the cemetery which approximates the totals and so, basically contradicts their restrictions if taken verbatim.

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