African American Burial Grounds

Our region’s burial grounds for African Americans are in danger from development and neglect. HWF is dedicated to finding solutions for perpetual care.

African-American Burial Grounds Preservation Act (S.3667 and H.R.6805)

The African-American Burial Grounds Preservation Act (S.3667) was introduced into the U.S. Senate on February 17, 2022, by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and co-sponsored by Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT). It was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R.6805) on February 22nd by Representatives McEachin (D-VA), Adams (D-NC), and Fitzpatrick (R-PA). The bi-partisan legislation would establish a program at the National Park Service to provide grant opportunities and technical assistance to local partners to research, identify, survey, and preserve these historic sites. 

Maides Cemetery & HWF’s Service

Since May, 2021, members of HWF have volunteered at Maides Cemetery under the leadership of community advocate and HWF Trustee Kathy King. Maides Cemetery is an abandoned, African-American burial ground located in Wilmington adjacent to Maides Park, located at 1101 Manly Avenue. (To learn more about the cemetery and how you can get involved, click here.)

The burial ground contains graves reaching back to the late 19th century and displays traditional, African-American burial customs such as grave goods, concrete headstones, and flora-designated unmarked graves. Thanks to the leadership of Ms. King and the tireless efforts of volunteers, the burial ground is now identifiable and maintained, however, much work is needed to provide the dignity and respect a burial ground should receive. This work includes a survey to identify unmarked graves (or buried headstones) and measures to preserve the diverse funerary art for generations to come.

Yet, Maides Cemetery is not alone. North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District contains dozens of African-American burial grounds in desperate need of the grant opportunities and technical assistance that S.3667 and H.R.6805 may provide. Examples of other burial grounds include Freedman’s Cemetery located off Carolina Beach Road, the burial ground located near Hampstead’s Eden Lane that was disturbed by construction in March, 2021, and Southport’s John N. Smith Cemetery, which earned designation on the National Register of Historic Places last year. 

above: Gravestones within Maides Cemetery date back to the 19th century, and many feature African American funerary ornamentation. The glass inlay (pictured above) has been used to symbolize the “mirror image” of this life compared to the next.

photo credit: Historic Wilmington Foundation

HWF Advocates for the African-American Burial Grounds Preservation Act (S.3667)