Skip to main content
Back to Results
Cover image of Death and Rebirth in a Southern City
Cover image of Death and Rebirth in a Southern City
Share this Title:

Death and Rebirth in a Southern City

Richmond's Historic Cemeteries

Ryan K. Smith

Publication Date
Binding Type
Request Exam CopyRequest Review Copy

This exploration of Richmond's burial landscape over the past 300 years reveals in illuminating detail how racism and the color line have consistently shaped death, burial, and remembrance in this storied Southern capital.

Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy, holds one of the most dramatic landscapes of death in the nation. Its burial grounds show the sweep of Southern history on an epic scale, from the earliest English encounters with the Powhatan at the falls of the James River through slavery, the Civil War, and the long reckoning that followed. And while the region's…

This exploration of Richmond's burial landscape over the past 300 years reveals in illuminating detail how racism and the color line have consistently shaped death, burial, and remembrance in this storied Southern capital.

Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy, holds one of the most dramatic landscapes of death in the nation. Its burial grounds show the sweep of Southern history on an epic scale, from the earliest English encounters with the Powhatan at the falls of the James River through slavery, the Civil War, and the long reckoning that followed. And while the region's deathways and burial practices have developed in surprising directions over these centuries, one element has remained stubbornly the same: the color line. But something different is happening now. The latest phase of this history points to a quiet revolution taking place in Virginia and beyond. Where white leaders long bolstered their heritage and authority with a disregard for the graves of the disenfranchised, today activist groups have stepped forward to reorganize and reclaim the commemorative landscape for the remains of people of color and religious minorities.

In Death and Rebirth in a Southern City, Ryan K. Smith explores more than a dozen of Richmond's most historically and culturally significant cemeteries. He traces the disparities between those grounds which have been well-maintained, preserving the legacies of privileged whites, and those that have been worn away, dug up, and built over, erasing the memories of African Americans and indigenous tribes. Drawing on extensive oral histories and archival research, Smith unearths the heritage of these marginalized communities and explains what the city must do to conserve these gravesites and bring racial equity to these arenas for public memory. He also shows how the ongoing recovery efforts point to a redefinition of Confederate memory and the possibility of a rebirthed community in the symbolic center of the South.

The book encompasses, among others, St. John's colonial churchyard; African burial grounds in Shockoe Bottom and on Shockoe Hill; Hebrew Cemetery; Hollywood Cemetery, with its 18,000 Confederate dead; Richmond National Cemetery; and Evergreen Cemetery, home to tens of thousands of black burials from the Jim Crow era. Smith's rich analysis of the surviving grounds documents many of these sites for the first time and is enhanced by an accompanying website, www.richmondcemeteries.org. A brilliant example of public history, Death and Rebirth in a Southern City reveals how cemeteries can frame changes in politics and society across time.

Jump to
Quick Add
Death and Rebirth in a Southern City

Ryan K. Smith

Publication Date
Binding Type
Request Exam CopyRequest Review Copy
Related

Related Books

Cover image of The Chesapeake Book of the Dead
The Chesapeake Book of the Dead

Helen Chappell
photographs by Starke Jett V

$35.00
Quick Add
The Chesapeake Book of the Dead

Helen Chappell
photographs by Starke Jett V

Publication Date
Binding Type
Cover image of The Huron-Wendat Feast of the Dead
The Huron-Wendat Feast of the Dead

Erik R. Seeman

$22.95
Quick Add
The Huron-Wendat Feast of the Dead

Erik R. Seeman

Publication Date
Binding Type
Cover image of Who Owns America's Past?
Who Owns America's Past?

Robert C. Post

$24.95
Quick Add
Who Owns America's Past?

Robert C. Post

Publication Date
Binding Type
Cover image of Civil War Memories
Civil War Memories

Robert J. Cook

$24.95
Quick Add
Civil War Memories

Robert J. Cook

Publication Date
Binding Type
Preorder
Replayed

Henry LowoodBRedited by Raiford Guins

$50.00
Quick Add
Replayed

Henry LowoodBRedited by Raiford Guins

Publication Date: June 6, 2023
Binding Type
Reviews

Reviews

A timely and compelling book combining the strands of history, archaeology, ethnography, and preservation. Most importantly, Ryan K. Smith conveys the voices of descendants and other community members who care deeply about these sacred and historic burial sites.

Exceptionally well written, unfailingly clear and engaging, and sometimes even stirring.

Death and Rebirth in a Southern City brings into sharp relief the issues of race, power, and memorialization that haunt Richmond's politics and culture. Smith deftly weaves together a definitive history of Richmond's cemeteries with the stories of citizen-historians and activists who are currently struggling to redefine the city's memorial landscape. Most disturbingly, he documents how a history of disrespect for Black bodies mirrors the larger culture's disregard for Black Lives even today.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
328
ISBN
9781421439273
Illustration Description
52 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

Introduction: The Southern Dead and the Present Moment
Chapter 1. The Churchyard
Chapter 2. The African Burial Ground
Chapter 3. The New Burying Ground
Chapter 4. Grounds for the Free People of Color and

Introduction: The Southern Dead and the Present Moment
Chapter 1. The Churchyard
Chapter 2. The African Burial Ground
Chapter 3. The New Burying Ground
Chapter 4. Grounds for the Free People of Color and the Enslaved
Chapter 5. The Hebrew Cemeteries
Chapter 6. The Confederate Cemeteries
Chapter 7. The National Cemeteries
Chapter 8. The Post-Emancipation Uplift Cemeteries
Epilogue
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Ryan K. Smith

Ryan K. Smith is a professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is the author of Robert Morris's Folly: The Architectural and Financial Failures of an American Founder and Gothic Arches, Latin Crosses: Anti-Catholicism and American Church Designs in the Nineteenth Century.
Resources

Additional Resources