Today, at the Quarterly Board Meeting, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources listed the Shockoe Hill Burying Ground Historic District on the Virginia Landmarks Registry. The nomination will be sent to the National Park Service for review for listing on the National Register of Historical Places. The Shockoe Hill Burying Ground Historic District 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.
The Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground has been a particular focus of Historic Richmond’s advocacy efforts since 2018. The Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground is the largest African Burial Ground in the nation. Documentary research indicates that more than 22,000 African American men, women, and children were buried here, making it the City’s primary burying ground for the enslaved and free people of color who died in Richmond between 1816 and 1879. In the second half of the 19th century, development projects began to impact the Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground’s physical features. The recognition of the historic significance of this sacred site is significant as a first step in understanding our history. Yet there is much more work to do to appropriately memorialize this site and protect it from further desecration by infrastructure projects.
We are grateful to Lenora McQueen for her leadership, tenacity and extensive scholarship which served as the foundation for this monumental moment. We also thank the other historic nomination co-authors – L. Daniel Mouer, PhD, Ryan K. Smith, PhD, and Steve Thompson – for their leadership and scholarship, as well as the following partners for their dedication and support: Ana Edwards of the Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project, Ellen Chapman of RVA Archaeology, Kimberly Chen of the City of Richmond, Preservation Virginia, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Cultural Landscape Partners, and Hannah Jane Brown of the University of Virginia, and many, many other friends and supporters – too many to list here
This is truly exciting news, but there is more yet to do.