You Can't Go Home Again
       
     
 We made our first trip to East End, a historic African American cemetery in Henrico County and the City of Richmond, more than a year ago, in May 2014, though we didn’t know it at the time. We were on our way to Evergreen Cemetery, East End's better-known neighbor, where famous black Richmonders Maggie Walker and John Mitchell Jr. are buried. Driving slowly down the access road past what looked like forest, even jungle, we spotted bits of white and gray—corners, tops, and edges of funerary monuments. We assumed that these were Evergreen graves and had no idea that we were catching glimpses of a different overgrown cemetery, a sixteen-acre burial ground with a parallel story.  Much of what is now East End was originally chartered as Greenwood Cemetery in 1892 by an association of prominent African Americans. After defaulting, they sold the property back to its original owners for five dollars. A new group of leading lights took over in 1897, when it became East End. Other back-and-forths followed. No arrangements for perpetual care were ever made, so when the community that supported the cemetery began to disperse under the weight of many forces—the attack on African American civil rights and economic power in the wake of Reconstruction; the physical destruction of Jackson Ward; the demise of de jure segregation, which opened burial grounds in the city proper to African Americans—East End Cemetery deteriorated. As a business entity, it is again in default, according to the last member of the burial association listed in Henrico County records as its owner. Volunteers, us among them, do what they can to keep nature, vandals, and surreptitious trash dumpers at bay, but only a large, creative, and collaborative effort that involves public entities and citizens—perhaps similar to the way public funds are earmarked for Confederate monuments and cemeteries such as Oakwood—will restore East End.   East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: Brian Palmer