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African American Diversity Entrepreneurship Opportunity Preservation Untold Stories We are Overcomers

East View Cemetery, Petersburg

cdhamner Mar 15
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What is commonly known as East View includes a series of several different parcels or discrete cemetery areas.

The earliest markers identified in the cemetery, dating from 1866 through the 1880s, are found in the easternmost section of the cemetery. The Cemetery is divided into two sections – East View (to the west) and Wilkerson Memorial Cemetery (to the east) – the two tracts are separated by a no longer used dirt or gravel road.  Today Wilkerson’s is the oldest African-American undertaking business in Petersburg.

Unlike People’s and Little Church Cemeteries. which were developed by benevolent organizations to provide burial services to the black community excluded from white-only segregated sections in Petersburg’s municipal cemeteries, there is evidence that East View was entrepreneurial, seeking to sell lots at a profit or as part of a total service package. While most entrepreneurial cemeteries were, at this time, operated as lawn park cemeteries, the East View section does retain elements of earlier styles that had passed out of vogue. The cemetery is laid out not on an east-west arrangement, but rather in relation to the strip of land that it occupies –  very characteristic of rural and lawn park cemeteries which used the natural lay of the land.

There is a wide range of monuments in East View, including a ground brick lined vault, a range of granite as well as military stones, including those for individuals who served in the Spanish-American War. There are a variety of stones identifying members of Fraternal lodges. They are far more common than at Blandford’s “Negro Section,” but not as common as at either People’s or Little Church, perhaps establishing the relative status of those who used the various cemeteries.

There are portions of East View which have been lost from memory – including a large grassy field which may have been used for the burial of victims of Petersburg’s 1918 influenza or typhoid epidemic.

Editor’s note: Want to join the 2019 Commemoration in recognizing the experiences of African Americans dating back to the 1619 arrival of the first Africans? Join us for the African Arrival Commemoration and Fort Monroe Visitor & Education Center Dedication.


The Petersburg Preservation Task Force (PPTF) was formed December 1, 2016 when the City of Petersburg closed all its museums due its financial crisis of 2016. The PPTF manages and operates three museums; Historic Blandford Church, Centre Hill Museum and the Visitors Center at the Exchange Building.

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  1. AE Curator March 20, 2019

    Thank you for sharing your story! It’s very interesting to learn that burial grounds provided entrepreneurship opportunities for African Americans in the 19th and early 20th centuries.


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