Getting Started

When caring for a historic African American cemetery, the most important things are not to do additional harm to the site or monuments, to keep yourself and your volunteers safe, to carefully document the work that you do and the information that you find, and to create a long-term plan that will ensure that the cemetery will be preserved into the future.

A useful starting point for anyone getting involved with cemetery preservation is Lynette Strangstad’s, A Graveyard Preservation Primer, 2nd Edition (American Association for State and Local History, 2013). Careful planning at the outset will help to avoid mistakes, frustration, or damage to the site. It will also create a strong foundation for ongoing efforts.

Before you get started, you should determined who currently owns or manages the site to get their permission to proceed.  In some cases, the site may be orphaned or abandoned, and there may not be a legal owner. Once you get started, it is useful to evaluate what work can be done by trained volunteers and what should be performed by a professional monument conservator. Here are some resources to help you to begin planning your preservation efforts:

Volunteer Management

Sample Preservation Plans

African Union Church of South Coventry

Byberry Township African American Burial Ground

Eastern Light Cemetery

Green Lawn Cemetery

Lincoln Cemetery

Lindley Hill Cemetery

Mt. Vernon/Lebanon Cemetery

Payne Chapel AME Cemetery

Thornbury AME Cemetery

Union Cemetery

Zion Union Cemetery