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Grave Matters: DHR's African American Cemetery & Graves Fund

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Woodland Cemetery in Henrico County. Photo: DHR

The latest updates and what to consider when applying to this grant program.

By Joanna Wilson Green

Waterford African American Cemetery
Waterford African American Cemetery in Loudoun County. Photo: DHR

It’s been six months since the start of the 2022-2023 season of our African American Cemetery & Graves Fund grant program, and we’ve had the pleasure of working on several great new projects. As of the first week of February this year, DHR has already disbursed a total of $75,542. To top off the good news, we are happy to report that we have several exciting projects in the pipeline that are nearly ready for funding as well. We encourage anyone who owns or cares for an African American cemetery to contact us about obtaining grants to assist you in your work.

 

DHR’s African American Cemetery & Graves Fund provides grants to support the maintenance and care of cemeteries established on or before December 31, 1947, specifically for the interment of African Americans. The graves of any individuals born prior to 1900 (regardless of date of death) and the graves of any individuals born after January 1, 1900, and interred prior to 1948, are considered eligible for grants through the Fund.

 

The Fund was established by the Virginia General Assembly in 2020 with the support of both houses. Created through legislation championed by Del. Deloris McQuinn, this nonreverting fund was originally set at $100,000 per year for qualifying cemeteries and graves, with increases each year. Currently the Fund is set at $250,000. Since the Fund's inception, DHR has been privileged to work with 28 separate cemeteries in locations across Virginia, ranging in size from a few dozen to several thousand graves, and has disbursed over $349,500 through the program. Many of our successful applicants have applied for and received multiple grants. These funds have been used for maintenance of cemetery landscapes, repair to funerary markers, and research pursuant to master planning.

 

Woodland Cemetery in Henrico County. Photo: DHR

 

Those interested in finding out whether graves are eligible for the grant program can confirm birth and/or interment dates through headstone inscriptions, vital records, church records, newspaper obituaries, and other information sources. Initial grants will be made at a rate of $5 per eligible grave, and recipients are thereafter invited to apply for block grants to fund more complex cemetery maintenance projects.

 

Applications to the Fund may be filed by property owners, charitable organizations that are established specifically to care for African American cemeteries, and local governments. If you or your organization is looking to apply for funding, application forms and our grants manual may be found here. For information and assistance with applications please contact the author, our cemetery preservation specialist Joanna Wilson Green, at joanna.wilson@dhr.virginia.gov.

 

Check out a few of the resources from around the state that have received grants through the 2022-2023 African American Cemetery & Graves Fund program:

Black Baptist and Douglass Cemeteries in the City of Alexandria (Applicant: City of Alexandria)

Kipps Free Colored and Slave Cemetery in Rockingham County (Applicant: Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project)

Macedonia Colored Disciples Cemetery in Southampton County (Applicant: Great Commission Outreach Baptist Church, Inc.)

Mount Olivet Baptist Cemetery in Albemarle County (Applicant: Mt. Olivet Baptist Church)

Mount Olivet Cemetery in the City of Richmond (Applicant: City of Richmond/Parks and Recreation)

Sons and Daughters of Ham Cemetery in Henrico County (Applicant: Friends of Sons and Daughters of Ham Cemetery)

Stanton Family Cemetery in Buckingham County (Applicant: African American Heritage Preservation Foundation)

Waterford African American Cemetery in Loudoun County (Applicant: Waterford Union of Churches)

Woodland Cemetery in Henrico County (Applicant: Woodland Restoration Foundation)

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