Photo by Brian Palmer
Old oaks loom over the graves inside East End Cemetery, a 16-acre burial ground bordering the city of Richmond and Henrico County.
Shafts of sunlight filtering through the foliage illuminate the final resting places of the thousands of black men and women interred there since it opened in 1897.
For years, East End – and its larger counterpart, Evergreen Cemetery – were neglected.
It was only through efforts of determined community volunteers and families of the deceased that the privately-owned cemeteries and the ugly Virginia history they bore witness to – when segregation by race separated Virginians from the cradle to the grave – weren’t left completely to weeds.
A bill that passed in 2017 dedicated state dollars to help maintain black cemeteries in the care of qualified charitable organizations, including the pair of Richmond cemeteries. And a second piece of legislation that passed this year broadened eligibility for the funding to anyone who owned one of the cemeteries, of which there are potentially hundreds of others across the state.