Pennsylvania Historic Preservation

Blog of the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office

Caring for African American Cemeteries with PA Hallowed Grounds


Throughout Pennsylvania, African American burial grounds are often lost or destroyed due to lack of permanent markers and documentation, dwindling community presence and awareness of the cemetery’s existence, vandalism, land ownership disputes, and a host of other issues to which their sensitive nature renders them vulnerable.

As we shared with you in this post from February, the PA SHPO and its partners PA Hallowed Grounds Project (PAGHP) and Dr. Steven Burg from Shippensburg University’s History and Philosophy Department are working on a multi-year study on Pennsylvania’s African American churches and cemeteries that is funded by an Underrepresented Communities grant from the National Park Service.

The goal of this project is to create a historic context for these historic places that will help researchers, property owners, and others understand the history and significance of African American churches and cemeteries and evaluate them for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

PA Hallowed Grounds will be holding their Annual Meeting in a few short weeks to talk about preserving Pennsylvania’s African American cemeteries and places of burial.  The mission of the Pennsylvania Hallowed Grounds Project, which is an all-volunteer organization, is to conserve, interpret, and honor the burial sites of USCT soldiers and the cemeteries in which they are interred.

People walking in a cemetery.

Conference attendees chat during tour at the 2017 PAHGP Annual Meeting in Lancaster. Photograph by Jeanie Glaser, 2017.

One of the group’s annual events is the Annual Meeting.  The PAHGP Annual Meeting provides attendees with an opportunity to share information on the preservation of burial sites of United States Colored Troops (USCT) and African American cemeteries across Pennsylvania.

The meeting gives special emphasis to engaging communities with these special places by leveraging their value as educational tools.  It is also an important opportunity for cemetery caretakers and friends to gather together and learn from one another.

People standing in a park

An annual Memorial Day Ceremony at Midland Cemetery in Steelton, PA brings locals and descendants together to celebrate the lives of soldiers interred there. Photograph by Jeanie Glaser, 2018.

The Pennsylvania Hallowed Grounds Project (PAHGP) will hold its Annual Meeting on October 6, 2018 at historic Mount Zion AME Church in Devon, Chester County, PA.  The meeting is made possible by Mount Zion AME’s generosity as host for our meeting this year, as well as the contributions of many other caring supporters.

Mount Zion A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) church, built ca. 1880, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2015 (Key #065384).  This Gothic Revival church (and its associated cemetery) is significant in the areas of Ethnic Heritage/Black and Social History for its association with the successful fight against an official local policy of school segregation in the area in the 1930s.  Read more about the church in the National Register nomination.

One-story brick building

Mt. Zion AME Church in Devon, PA is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Photograph by Jim Toner, ca 2014.

This year’s Keynote Speaker will be Adrienne G. Whaley, M.S.Ed. She is an educator, history lover, and genealogist.

Adrienne received her Bachelor of Arts in African American Studies, and then earned her Master of Science in Education at the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently President of the African American Genealogy Group (AAGG) of Philadelphia and Volunteer Coordinator for a partnership between AAGG and Philadelphia’s historic Eden Cemetery. Adrienne also serves as Manager of School Programs and Partnerships at the Museum of the American Revolution, and previously served as Curator of Education and Public Programming at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

Other speakers will include a staff member from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; Dr. Steven Burg, Chair of the Department of History and Philosophy at Shippensburg University; and various caretakers from throughout our network of cemeteries.

Annual Meeting check-in begins at 9 AM on October 6, 2018.

Coffee, tea, and pastries are provided so you won’t be chatting on an empty stomach before the meeting begins at 9:30. Lunch is provided, followed by a time for all caretakers to share their stories. This event is free and open to the public; however, donations are welcomed to help sustain this event and other PAHGP initiatives.

Registration is now open; please click here to reach the registration page.  For more information, follow PA Hallowed Grounds on Facebook or get in touch with Barbara Barksdale via email or phone at 717-939-0242 (please leave a message).


This week’s authors are Barbara Barksdale from PA Hallowed Grounds and PA SHPO’s Shelby Weaver Splain.

Author: Multiple Authors

This post has been co-authored by several members of the PA SHPO Staff.


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