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Grave Matters: The African American Cemetery & Graves Fund

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

Shiloh Baptist Church Cemetery
Shiloh Baptist Church Cemetery is the oldest cemetery associated with the congregation of Shiloh Baptist Church. It is located on Monument Avenue, between Kenwood Avenue and Littlepage Street, in the City of Fredericksburg. The cemetery served three congregations, Shiloh Baptist (old), Shiloh Baptist (new), and Mt. Zion Baptist, all of which share both history and worshipers. The land was purchased in 1882 by deacons of Shiloh Baptist, and the cemetery was established to provide respectful burial for Fredericksburg’s Black residents, who were then barred from interment in White cemeteries. Photo: DHR.

As the end of the Fiscal Year 2022-2023 Grant Season approaches, we wanted to take a moment to update you on DHR’s African American Cemetery & Graves Fund. To date, we have been privileged to disburse more than $80,000 in support of the good work that is currently happening all around the Commonwealth. We are also continuing to work on new applications.


Grants from the African American Cemetery & Graves Fund go toward supporting a wide range of cemeteries in the state, from small churchyards and family cemeteries to immense city burial grounds. All of these resting places are in the respectful hands of communities dedicated to their upkeep and care. We look forward to not only working with these communities in the years to come, but to serving new caretakers as well. We are in the process of updating our grant manual and guidance. Readers are encouraged to keep an eye out for new material on our website soon.


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. DHR will be unable to disburse any additional grant funds to your organization if this information is not submitted and approved. All materials should be forwarded to Joanna Wilson Green by mail at 2801 Kensington Avenue, Richmond, VA 23221, or submitted electronically to Please contact Ms. Green with any questions or to request a reconciliation form.


Woodlawn United Methodist Church Cemetery
Woodlawn United Methodist Church Cemetery is located on Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County. The church was established ca. 1866 by free and recently emancipated African Americans on land purchased from the Woodlawn Quaker Meeting. The church was relocated after the U.S. Army purchased the land and evicted the community, but the cemetery remains. Photo: DHR.

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. Applicants to the grant program may confirm birth and/or interment dates through headstone inscriptions, vital records, church records, newspaper obituaries, and other information sources. We will also accept the results of ground penetrating radar (GPR) if this survey is discussed with and approved by DHR before work begins. 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. Application forms and our grants manual may be found on our website under the Grants tab.

Updated: May 1, 2023