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Grave Matters: The African American Cemetery & Graves Fund

Union Street Cemeteries, City of Hampton
Union Street Cemeteries in the City of Hampton. Photo by Joanna Wilson Green/DHR, 2024.

The latest updates on this grant program and how to find out if a grave or cemetery is eligible for funding.

By Joanna Wilson Green, DHR Cemetery Preservation Archaeologist

The 2023-24 African American Cemeteries & Graves Fund grant cycle is well underway, and we have received multiple applications for our standard maintenance grants that are based on the number of eligible graves present in each cemetery. As of publication we have issued 11 maintenance grants for a total disbursement of $53,260.00. A list of successful applicants may be found at the end of this article. We look forward to hearing from our existing grant recipients and to meeting new ones as the year goes by.

It has also been our great privilege to issue block grant funds to two additional cemeteries for extraordinary maintenance projects. Funding issued to the Oakland Baptist Church Cemetery in the City of Alexandria will be used to address professional headstone repair and cleaning as well as cemetery landscape care. Funding issued to Montpelier Burial Ground in Orange County will be used to support ground penetrating radar surveys of portions of the cemetery to identify potential unmarked gravesites. As of publication we have issued five extraordinary maintenance grants for a total disbursement of $74,680.00.

We encourage anyone who owns or cares for an African American cemetery to contact us. Applications for 2023-24 funding (both standard and extraordinary maintenance) will be accepted through close of business on May 31, 2024. An updated grants manual and application forms can be found on our website.

A cleared section in Union Street Cemeteries in Hampton. Grant recipients, deacons of the churches associated with these cemeteries as well as local residents, used 2023-24 AAC&G funds to help clear overgrown portions of the site. Photo by Joanna Wilson Green/DHR, 2024.

As a reminder to our current grant recipients, DHR requires that you submit a reconciliation of expenses to DHR after July 1 but no later than September 30. This reconciliation should document how grant funds were used in the maintenance of your cemetery and should include invoices or receipts if available. All materials should be forwarded to Joanna Wilson Green by mail at 2801 Kensington Avenue, Richmond, VA 23221, or electronically at Joanna.Wilson@dhr.virginia.gov. If you are a 2022-23 grant recipient and have not yet submitted your form please contact Ms. Green as soon as possible. DHR will be unable to disburse any additional grant funds to your organization if this information is not submitted and approved.

The Department’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. Birth and/or interment dates may be confirmed through headstone inscriptions, vital records, church records, newspaper obituaries, and other information sources. We will also accept the results of ground penetrating radar (GPR). 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 “extraordinary maintenance” projects.

Applications may be filed by property owners, charitable organizations established specifically to care for African American cemeteries, and local governments. Property owners must provide proof of ownership and register with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) or be determined exempt from registration. Churches are exempt from this requirement. Charitable organizations must confirm their status as 501(c)(3) nonprofits, provide documentation of their mission with regard to care of the cemetery, and be registered with VDACS or determined exempt from registration. Local governments applying for funds to care for cemeteries within their jurisdictions must provide either proof of ownership or formal determination that the cemetery in question is abandoned.



Albemarle County 
Mount Olivet Baptist Church Cemetery
Piedmont Baptist Church Cemetery

City of Alexandria
Oakland Baptist Church Cemetery

Buckingham County
Stanton Family Cemetery

City of Danville
Flippen Cemetery

City of Hampton
Pleasant Shade Cemetery

City of Portsmouth
Mount Calvary Cemetery

Culpeper County
Elkwood Drive Cemetery

Fluvanna County
Union Baptist Church-Shores Cemetery

Loudoun County
Waterford Union of Churches African American Cemetery

Montgomery County
Wake Forest Cemetery

Orange County
Montpelier Burial Ground

City of Richmond
Mount Olivet Cemetery


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