Helping Families and Friends Honor Their Loved One
Preserving Heritage: The Story of African American Burial Grounds in Martinsburg, WV

Preserving Heritage: The Story of African American Burial Grounds in Martinsburg, WV

The history of African American burial grounds in Martinsburg, West Virginia, is a testament to resilience and community strength.

From the early 1800s to the present day, African Americans have faced challenges in burying their loved ones with dignity, yet their efforts to preserve their heritage have endured.

Martinsburg, founded in the late 1700s, saw African Americans contributing significantly to its growth as laborers, artisans, and entrepreneurs.

However, segregation and discriminatory practices limited their access to established cemeteries. In 1858, Green Hill Cemetery was established, but African Americans were barred from the main section, leading to the creation of a separate, neglected area adjoining the cemetery.

The establishment of Mount Hope Cemetery in the 1870s provided a designated burial place for African Americans, addressing the need for a dignified resting place.

Over time, both Green Hill and Mount Hope Cemeteries became vital repositories of African American history, reflecting the struggles and triumphs of the community.

Unfortunately, these burial grounds fell into disrepair, becoming dumping grounds and sites for illicit activities. However, recent years have seen efforts to restore and honor these sacred sites.

Shepherd University students, alongside the Green Hill Historic African American Cemetery Inc., have volunteered to clear debris and refurbish the Green Hill Cemetery burial grounds. Meanwhile, Pastor Hall of Mt. Zion has taken the responsibility to care for Mount Hope Cemetery, ensuring its upkeep and preservation.

The nonprofit organization Green Hill Historic African American Cemetery Inc. has also marked known graves and identified possible burial sites, preserving the memory of those laid to rest at Green Hill Cemetery.

One significant figure in this narrative is Peter Miller, the caretaker of a historic African American cemetery on East Burke Street since he was 14 years old. Despite facing challenges such as lack of funding and support, Miller has dedicated himself to maintaining the cemetery’s integrity.

Today, organizations like the Green Hill Historic African American Cemetery continue to work tirelessly to restore, maintain, and honor the Green Hill Cemetery burial grounds.

Their efforts serve as a reminder of the resilience and strength of the African American community in Martinsburg, preserving their heritage for future generations.

Mount Hope Cemetery, established off what is now Woodbury Avenue, stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of African Americans in Martinsburg. Its establishment provided a dignified final resting place for many, further solidifying its importance in the community’s history.

As we reflect on the history of African American burials in Martinsburg, we must recognize the importance of these sites in preserving the memory of those who came before us.

They are not just burial grounds but sacred spaces that tell the story of a community’s past and its enduring legacy.

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