State Historical Marker to Be Dedicated in Henrico County for Woodland Cemetery

Published May 30, 2024

Virginia Department of Historic Resources
(dhr.virginia.gov)
For Immediate Release
May 29, 2024

Contact:
Ivy Tan
Department of Historic Resources
Marketing & Communications Manager
ivy.tan@dhr.virginia.gov
804-482-6445

State Historical Marker to Be Dedicated in Henrico County for Woodland Cemetery

—The cemetery served as the resting place for several of the most prominent figures in Richmond’s Black community during the late 19th to 20th centuries—

—Text of marker reproduced below—

PLEASE NOTE: DHR creates markers not to “honor” their subjects but rather to educate and inform the public about a person, place, or event of regional, state, or national importance. In this regard, erected markers are not memorials.

RICHMOND – A state historical marker issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) will be dedicated this weekend for Woodland Cemetery, the resting place of Arthur Ashe, Zenobia Gilpin, the Rev. John Jasper, and other leading figures of Richmond’s Black community in the late 19th to 20th centuries.

The dedication ceremony for the marker will be held Saturday, June 1, starting at 11 a.m., at the marker’s location in Woodland Cemetery, located on 2300 Magnolia Road in Henrico County (23223). This event is free and open to the public. Free parking will be available along the lanes within the cemetery.

The dedication ceremony will celebrate the 107th anniversary of the cemetery’s opening. Benjamin Ross, Historian of the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, will provide opening remarks, followed by a welcoming introduction and history from Ron Hicks, President of the Woodland Restoration Foundation. Also scheduled to speak are Cari Tretina, Henrico County Chief of Staff; Marvin Harris, Executive Director of the Woodland Restoration Foundation; and Julie Langan, Director of DHR and Virginia’s State Historic Preservation Officer. Refreshments and fellowship will take place after the ceremony.

Woodland Cemetery was first dedicated on May 30, 1917, as the resting place for the African American community of the City of Richmond. John Mitchell Jr., the civil rights leader and renowned editor of the Richmond Planet, led the effort to establish Woodland Cemetery after the nearby Barton Heights Cemeteries closed. Prominent individuals buried at Woodland include the Rev. John Jasper, who founded the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church; public health activist Dr. Zenobia Gilpin; Charles Thaddeus Russell, Richmond’s first licensed Black architect; and humanitarian and tennis champion Arthur Ashe. Also interred in the cemetery are formerly enslaved people, military veterans, and community leaders. The cemetery fell into disrepair in the late 20th century. In more recent years, families and volunteers have worked to restore it to its original condition.

The Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which is authorized to designate new state historical markers, approved the manufacture and installation of the marker for Woodland Cemetery in December 2022. DHR partnered with Henrico County Recreation and Parks, the Woodland Restoration Foundation, Henrico County Public Schools, family members and descendants, as well as friends of the cemetery, to erect the historical marker. As the marker’s sponsor, DHR covered the manufacturing costs of the marker.

Virginia’s historical highway marker program began in 1927 with installation of the first markers along U.S. Route 1. It is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,600 state markers, mostly maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, except in those localities outside of VDOT’s authority.

Full Text of Marker:

Woodland Cemetery

Woodland Cemetery was dedicated on 30 May 1917 as a grand resting place for Richmond's African American community. John Mitchell Jr., newspaper editor and civil rights activist, led the effort after the closure of the Barton Heights Cemeteries nearby. Among those interred here are formerly enslaved people, military veterans, and community leaders. Prominent individuals include the Rev. John Jasper, founder of Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, public health activist Dr. Zenobia Gilpin, architect Charles T. Russell, and humanitarian and tennis champion Arthur Ashe. After the cemetery fell into disrepair in the late 20th century, families and volunteers labored to restore it to its original condition.

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