Danville announces grant funding to preserve historic Oak Hill cemetery

Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 5:07 PM EDT
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DANVILLE, Va. (WDBJ) - The city of Danville is working to preserve a historic cemetery in the community.

Oak Hill is the oldest cemetery for the African American community in Danville dating back to the 1900s.

City leaders gathered with locals Tuesday afternoon to announce that they received over $26,000 in grant funding for the rehabilitation of the Oak Hill cemetery.

The grant comes from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources through the Virginia Historical African American Cemetery and Graves Fund. The Oak Hill cemetery is one of 33 cemeteries in Virginia to receive funding.

“We want to preserve what we can, and these memorials could be over 100 years old,” said Ken Larking, Danville City Manager. “Over time, there’s wear and tear and various things that happen. So, if we can clean them up, people can really understand who is here. Maybe folks who are alive today can trace their lineage back to people from their history.”

There have been more than 11,000 burials there since before the 1900s when the 30-acre cemetery was part of the Almagro community. Almagro was one of the first all-Black towns in Danville that was developed by the formerly enslaved.

“When you come to a cemetery such as Oak Hill, for black residents all through the city of Danville, you’ve had at least one ancestor that’s been buried here in the cemetery,” said Karice Luck-Brimmer, Plan Danville Community Ambassador. “So, it’s like walking in your ancestors’ final footprints almost.”

The funding will help repair some of the headstones and keep the graves maintained.

Local historian, Karice Luck-Brimmer, says this is important not only for the family of the deceased but also for the history of the community.

“As a historian, I do a lot of genealogical research and cemeteries. It’s one of my primary resources for biographical information. So, for me, it’s just amazing. It gives dignity to those who lived here and who worked here,” added Luck-Brimmer.

They are also working to add signage to Oak Hill Cemetery and secure additional funding for all cemeteries in the city.