History

Virtual Preservation Tour: African American Burial Societies

Preservation-Society , April 6, 2020

While you’re stuck at home, we would like to share with you some of our favorite places in Charleston. Join the Preservation Society every week, as we share a virtual tour through the diverse burial grounds of the Charleston Cemetery Historic District!

Beginning in the late 18th century, a growing population of free African Americans began to form benevolent societies with the purpose of providing a sense of community, supporting the sick and their families, and supplying a place for burial for their members. In 1856, the societies of Humane and Friendly, Friendly Union, Christian Benevolent, Unity and Friendship, and Brotherly Association purchased one or more lots from the former Village of Magnolia Umbra. The Brown Fellowship Society, founded in 1790, had previously established its original graveyard in 1794 on Pitt Street at Calhoun Street. In 1956, the society sold its former burial grounds to Bishop England High School and purchased a new graveyard in this area. A few of the most elaborate tombstones from the Pitt Street cemetery were relocated to this site. In addition to the cemeteries associated with the benevolent societies, graveyards associated with African American churches, funeral homes, and families are also located in this area.