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Restoring Hallowed Ground on MLK Day

Andy Thompson

January 8, 2018 9:30am

Evergreen Cemetery in Richmond’s East End. Credit: Wikipedia

A week from today many Richmonders will be off from work due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In recent years, there’s been a growing effort to make the day more meaningful by turning it into a day of service, i.e. honoring King’s legacy by undertaking a volunteer project in one’s community.

Last year on MLK Day, a friend and I took our kids into the James River Park to clear a trail. It was a worthy exercise, a great excuse to get the kids outside and working with a purpose, but I wouldn’t say it connected us to King in any meaningful way.

That’s why I was excited to hear about the Enrichmond Foundation’s volunteer opportunity at Evergreen Cemetery next Monday. If you’ve never heard of Evergreen, you probably aren’t alone among Central Virginians. Located in Richmond’s East End and created in 1891, Evergreen is a historic African-American cemetery. It is the resting place for many of the city’s African-American leaders of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Maggie L. Walker, John Mitchell, Jr., and Rev. J. Andrew Bowler. There are an estimated 5,000 plots in Evergreen, most of which have become overgrown after over 40 years of neglect. The Enrichmond Foundation recently purchased the neglected acreage then placed it in a conservation easement and is trying to build on years of grassroots efforts to restore the cemetery to its former glory.

I’ll be out there with my wife and kids on Monday, pulling invasives and clearing gravesites. For those with limited mobility, Enrichmond also needs help recording grave markers for their records. Click here to learn more and to sign up.

If you want to learn about all the volunteer opportunities across the area on MLK Day, HandsOn Greater Richmond’s volunteer page is the place to go. There are dozens of options to choose from.


About Andy Thompson

I was the Outdoors Columnist at the Times-Dispatch from 2007 to 2013, writing twice a week about mountain biking, fishing, hunting, paddling and much more. I live a 1/4 mile from the James River, close enough to see bald eagles soaring over my house on their way to find a meal. Pretty cool, eh?