This site (31 acres) is the 2nd municipal burial ground for the City of Richmond established for the interment of free people of color and the enslaved of Richmond. It is estimated that over 22,000 interments were made in the Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground.
The first and older municipal burial ground for people of African descent was closed in 1816 upon the opening of this new site. It was a segregated part of the "Shockoe Hill Burying Ground". In the 1870s, it came to be labeled on maps as "Potter's Field". During the Civil War, the bodies of more than 500 deceased Union Army Prisoners of War were interred here. Shortly after the war their remains were removed from the African Burying Ground and then re-interred in the "Richmond National Cemetery".
Throughout its years of operation, it was a main target for body stealing by medical colleges, especially the Medical College of Virginia and the University of Virginia. It suffered from the explosion of a gun powder magazine on April 3, 1865, and the later construction of 2 new powder magazines built upon it in 1867.
Portions of it became part of the Hebrew Cemetery. In addition, it has had roads, a railway, and the highway run through it. An old Sunoco gas station sits upon a portion of its original 2 acres, along with a billboard; while other parts lie beneath Interstate-64, 5th St., and also Hospital St. The list of abuses does not stop there, and the site remains threatened to this day. Two approaching threats to the burial ground are high-speed rail, and the proposed widening of I-64.
Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground was placed on the the 2021 List of Virginia's Most Endangered List by Preservation Virginia. On March 17, 2022, Shockhoe Hill Burying Ground was placed on the Virginia Landmakrs Register. On June 22, 2022, Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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