African American Burial Societies

10 Cunnington Avenue, Charleston, SC.

Collection of relocated monuments from the original Brown Fellowship Society Cemetery designed by H.A. DeCosta, courtesy of the Preservation Society of Charleston.

Throughout Charleston’s history, Black communities have been denied equal access to land and financial resources for the dignified burial of their family members. In response, groups of freedmen began forming mutual aid organizations, known as burial societies, in the early 19th century to create their own cemeteries and help defray burial costs. Many of these societies continued to operate after the abolition of slavery as important social institutions for Black autonomy and celebration of cultural identity, some of which are still active today. From the 1850s through the 1950s, many African American burial societies established cemeteries on the upper peninsula in an area now known as the Charleston Cemetery Historic District. Today, this collection of cemeteries comprises one of the most intact landscapes of its kind in the country and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

More information on the African American Burial Societies of the Charleston Cemetery Historic District coming soon.