Evergreen Cemetery Restoration Project: A Student Photo Essay

Evergreen Cemetery Restoration Project: A Student Photo Essay

Established in the late 1890’s, Evergreen Cemetery was one of four adjacent final resting places for Richmond’s African American community at the turn of the century. “It was laid out by the Evergreen Cemetery Association on a high ridge overlooking the valley formed by Stony Run and Gillies Creek; it was planned to be the African American equivalent of Richmond’s high-style Hollywood Cemetery for whites. From below, dense woods obscure the effect of the massed monuments on its hillside, and the historic gravestones extend deep into the woods, where the dead are forgotten amid overgrown paths, upturned monuments and anonymous graves.” Selden Richardson, author of Built By Blacks

For the last several years, Veritas Upper School students have joined the efforts of thousands of individuals across our city in the slow, steady reclamation of Evergreen Cemetery after decades of neglect. During our most recent visit, sophomore Abby Prior, and freshmen Elizabeth White and Anna Luger, documented the hard, but rewarding work for this photo essay. Learn more about Evergreen, its storied history and how to volunteer at the Evergreen Cemetery site.  We look forward to returning next fall to continue the amazing work of non-profits and volunteers throughout our city.

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Students, ready with tools, gather among the gravestones to learn about the cemetery’s past and their contribution to its future.

 

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After a short history of the cemetery and its steep decline into obscurity, students are prepared to tackle the thick brush in hopes of uncovering more grave markers.

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Decades of English ivy cover grave markers, making it very difficult to locate the final resting place of many of our city’s African-American veterans, pastors, educators and loved ones.

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In addition to the ivy, a new forest of trees has sprung up; roots often upturn grave markers and need to be carefully removed.

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Students’ hard work is rewarded when they discover grave markers. Each marker’s information and location are carefully documented for the family of the deceased.

 

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Students brought lots of water in rinsed-out 2-liters to gently wash off markers as they were discovered.

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Faculty members dig deep alongside students and parent volunteers.

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The chance to build and strengthen friendships while serving side-by-side makes this day one of the highlights of our year.

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Several alumni joined this year’s effort. We look forward to bringing 200+ students, faculty and parent volunteers back to this project next fall. In the meantime, you can volunteer with community members any Saturday! Simply connect to https://eastendcemetery.wordpress.com/ to learn more.