John Mitchell picks his way down the path through the woods, avoiding the thick brush on either side, stepping gingerly over a slab of fallen granite, until he gets to the broken crypt.
A jagged hole exposes caskets to the sky, their metal fixtures rusted, covers ajar. English ivy cascades down the sides of the crypt, and a cross and a strange symbol have been drawn in black over the opening, possibly by someone who broke in.
The grave of Mitchell’s great-grandfather, Thomas Mitchell, is somewhere nearby, hidden under vines and tree roots on the hillside. All around the violated crypt, mounds in the ivy mark fallen tombstones, piles of collapsed iron fencing, granite blocks that once outlined family plots.
This is Evergreen Cemetery, burial ground for some of the elite citizens of Richmond in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Bankers, publishers, doctors, lawyers — the type of upper crust who are usually lionized in this city of monuments. Except that all of these people were black, and the city’s grand cemeteries wouldn’t have them when they died. (Washington Post)