Old City Cemetery

Old City Cemetery (HM1EME)

Location: Lynchburg, VA 24501
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Country: United States of America
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N 37° 24.942', W 79° 9.494'

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(Old Methodist Cemetery)

— Lynchburg's Oldest African-American Burial Ground —

This old burying ground, established in 1806, is where most of Lynchburg's African Americans were laid to rest in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As many as 75% of the estimated 20,000 people buried here are African-American.

This has always been a public cemetery, open to all citizens and "strangers" regardless of race or class. In fact, until White Rock Cemetery opened in the late 1880s, this was the only burial ground in the City open to black residents. Even as late as 1925, nine out of ten African Americans who died in Lynchburg were interred in the City Cemetery.

Before the end of the Civil War and Emancipation, virtually all of Lynchburg's enslaved and free blacks were buried here, in sections designated specifically for "colored" persons. Although slave-owners usually arranged and paid for their slaves' burials, they allowed slaves special freedoms to attend funerals, conduct their own funeral ceremonies, and mark their own gravesites. The slave funerals held here were reported to be some of the largest gatherings of people of color in antebellum Lynchburg.

After 1865 the Cemetery's burials and gravemarkers reflected the increasing diversity of Lynchburg's African-American community. Tobacco factory laborers, porters, midwives, and laundresses were buried alongside college professors, politicians, ministers, and many other black institution-builders in the era of "separate but equal."

Because of poor municipal management and record-keeping, and the resulting practice of overburying, Lynchburg City Council closed most of the Cemetery to further burials in 1925 and again in 1965, both times amid much controversy.

(upper left) A kneeling angel watches over the grave of little Emmett Hamilton Jefferson (1907-1909), a two year-old African-American child. Jefferson's monument is the only statuary gravemarker in the Cemetery. Section 203

(lower left) Amelia Perry Pride (1857-1932), seated, with residents of the Dorchester Home for elderly black women. Pride and other alumnae of Hampton Institute established the Home in 1897. Buried in section 104

(upper center) A symbolically broken fife adorns the headstone of Blind Billy (c.1805-1855), a slave musician who played the fife for military parades and private parties. Section 102

(upper center) Cast-iron gravemarker (c.1900) of an African-American member of the Order of the Eastern Star fraternal society. Burial insurance was an important benefit of many such groups. Section 103

(upper right) Virginia Cabell Randolph (1876-1962) organized a popular "community house" for balck children at 812 Eighth Street. Buried in section 102

(lower right) Phillip Fisher Morris (c.1852-1923) was pastor of Court Street and Eighth Street Baptisit Churches and founder and first president of Virginia Theological Seminary and College. Buried in section 102
Year Placed2003
Placed ByAfrican American Heritage Trail of Central Virginia
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Saturday, October 4th, 2014 at 10:52am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)17S E 662984 N 4142580
Decimal Degrees37.41570000, -79.15823333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 37° 24.942', W 79° 9.494'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds37° 24' 56.52" N, 79° 9' 29.64" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)434
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 1100 Garland St, Lynchburg VA 24501, US
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