East End Cemetery in Henrico County was founded in 1897 by black Richmonders who were excluded from cemeteries that were established for the white population, such as Hollywood. As with other African American burial grounds of the period, plots were maintained primarily by families. However, the weight of Jim Crow’s racially discriminatory policies, the lack of public investment, and the displacement of many African American communities took a heavy toll on East End. By the 1970s, it was almost completely overgrown, and at some point the paper burial records were lost.
Since 2013, volunteers have been working to clear vegetation, uncover grave markers, and piece together the history of the community at rest in the cemetery. The challenge of cemetery maintenance persists, with about half of the cemetery still to be uncovered and documented, despite more than five years of steady efforts by volunteers. The East End Cemetery Collaboratory has brought together spatial mapping efforts initiated by UR Biology and the Spatial Analysis Lab with historical and sociological efforts in over nine classes at UR and VCU. The goal of the Collaboratory is to enrich community-based learning experiences for students while contributing to a shared mission to reclaim and restore the cemetery grounds, to curate and document this outdoor archive of African American history and culture in Richmond, and to produce place-based knowledge that contributes to a community dialogue about our collective past.