UNC Charlotte graduate student restoring historic cemetery

UNC Charlotte graduate student restoring historic cemetery


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Among the trees and autumn leaves lies some of Charlotte’s richest history. 


What You Need To Know

  • Cedar Grove Cemetery is an African American cemetery that dates all the way back to the late 1800s. 
  • Prominent leaders, as well as veterans, are buried at the cemetery that sits right across the street from University Park Elementary School in Charlotte 
  • UNC Charlotte graduate student Kevin Donaldson is hoping to contact family members and work with other students to restore this cemetery

“It looks like it sunk, which is really unfortunate,” said Kevin Donaldson. “It needs to be repaired.” 

It’s hard to believe, but a few weeks ago Donaldson was standing inside the Cedar Grove Cemetery. 

The cemetery sits right across the street from University Park Elementary school, and buried there are influential African Americans from Charlotte, dating all the way back to the late 1800s. 

“I see other cemeteries in the city that are very well kept,” he said. “I would love to see this one get back to that.” 

Donaldson is a UNC Charlotte graduate student studying public history. 

“I’ve always been interested in history though … big, big fan,” he said.” Lot of history in South Carolina and Georgia in my family so a lot of things to keep up with there.” 

Growing up in Charleston, he’s always seen the importance of cemeteries. So once he learned about Cedar Grove and the state it was in, he knew he had to do something. 

“It was a shame to see neglect, really, and I know that a lot of families come out here and maintain their graves, but it takes a village really to get these places back to where they once were,” said Donaldson. 

Donaldson learned about this cemetery through local historian and Professor Willie Griffin. 

Griffin just recently found out about Cedar Grove and is hoping to share some of the history he knows to help Donaldson with this project. 

“Looking at prominent headstones, you realize this was an important person, and so if you want to begin researching, you have to begin there,” said Griffin. “Who were the people in the community who were the movers and shakers.”

Along with Griffin, Donaldson is working with County Commissioner At-Large Pat Cotham to find descendants and soon begin the work of restoring this cemetery. 

He knows it will be a lot of work, but it’s important work, not just for our community, but also for the many African Americans who lay at rest there.

“This is just as important as a museum,” said Donaldson. “It’s just as important as we revere in our society, and it really deserves to be kept up.” 

Donaldson is hoping to talk to those who have loved ones buried in this cemetery. 

If you are interested in reaching out, you can contact Donaldson here



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