Sunday, June 12 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Save the Date! Shockoe Hill African Burial Ground Historical Marker Unveiling
June 12 | 2:30 p.m.
1305 N 5th St | Free and Open to the Public
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The Virginia Department of Historic Resources will unveil a historic highway marker for the Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground at a ceremony on June 12 at 2:30 p.m. at 1305 N 5th St.
On March 17, at its Quarterly Board Meeting, DHR listed the Shockoe Hill Burying Ground Historic District on the Virginia Landmarks Register (VLR).
The Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground (Richmond’s 2nd African Burying Ground) was established by the city of Richmond, Virginia, for the internment of free people of color, and the enslaved. The heart of this now invisible burying ground is located at 1305 N 5th St. It was created as the replacement for the Burial Ground for Negroes, now also called the African Burying Ground, located in Shockoe Bottom (known historically as Shockoe Valley). The Burial Ground for Negroes was closed in 1816 upon the opening of this new African Burying Ground on Shockoe Hill.
The Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground is likely the largest burial ground for free people of color and the enslaved in the United States. It is conservatively estimated that over 22,000 people of African descent were buried in its expanded 31 acres, which began as two (1 acre) plots. It was opened in 1816, and closed in 1879 due to overcrowded conditions. It has suffered many abuses, and was purposely made to disappear from the visible landscape. It is one of Virginia’s most endangered historic places. Current threats to the burial ground include the DC2RVA passenger rail project (high-speed rail), and the proposed widening of I-64, along with various infrastructure projects.
During a ceremony that will begin on June 12th at 2:30 p.m. at 1305 N 5th St., an historic highway marker will be unveiled for the Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground. The marker is being sponsored by the Department of Historic Resources (DHR). The marker received the unanimous approval of the Board of Historic Resources at its June 17, 2021 board meeting.
Previous to that, a Preliminary Information Form (P.I.F.) was submitted to DHR seeking approval to write a nomination for the Shockoe Hill Burying Ground Historic District (which included the Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground) to the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. The P.I.F. was presented to the Virginia State Review Board at its September 17, 2020 board meeting. It received the unanimous support of the State Review Board, making it eligible for nomination. The co-authored nomination for the Shockoe Hill Burying Ground Historic District was completed and submitted to DHR on July 28, 2021. The nomination was presented before the State Review Board and the Board of Historic Resources on March 17, 2022. On that day, the Shockoe Hill Burying Ground Historic District was added to the Virginia Landmarks Register. And the nomination was forwarded to the National Parks Service for consideration to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).
As stated in the nomination for the Shockoe Hill Burying Ground Historic District, it is a significant example of a municipal almshouse-public hospital-cemetery complex and illustrates the changing social and racial relationships in Richmond through the New Republic, Antebellum, Civil War, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow/Lost Cause eras of the 19th and 20th centuries, The district features a suite of municipal functions and services concerned with matters of public welfare, health, and safety, which the City of Richmond relegated to its then-periphery on its northern boundary during the 19th century. This district includes three newly identified sites, the Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground, the City Hospital and Colored Almshouse Site, and the City Powder Magazine Site, all of which have been erased from the visible landscape. It is the invisible and long forgotten Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground, which is being honored with an historic highway marker on June 12th.
While the ceremony will provide some seating, we expect a crowd, so please bring your own chair.