Mapping Charleston’s Black Burial Grounds

Learn more about this ongoing community-led mapping initiative to document historic, Black burial grounds, made possible by a National Park Service (NPS) African American Civil Rights Grant.

About the Project

The Preservation Society of Charleston (PSC) has been awarded an African American Civil Rights grant by the National Park Service in support of the Mapping Charleston’s Black Burial Grounds initiative. The PSC’s objective is to implement a community-led, open-source mapping project to produce a comprehensive inventory of Black burial grounds in the City of Charleston. The grant application was bolstered by letters of support from the International African American Museum and the City of Charleston. Additional project partners include Tulane University and the Anson Street African Burial Ground Project. 

This grant proposal was developed in response to local challenges shared by communities across the country: Black burial grounds have long been under-documented and under-protected and are disproportionately threatened by intensifying development pressures, as well as environmental risk, namely flooding and sea level rise. 

In 2021, the City of Charleston passed its first cemetery protection ordinance that enables City officials to stop construction if a developer receives notice that burial sites are present. While this ordinance represents a major preservation win, there is still no inventory of burial sites to ensure development is planned proactively to avoid willful or unknowing desecration. That is exactly the information gap the PSC aims to bridge through implementation of the NPS grant-funded project. 

“This work ties into a broader national conversation. Our aim is to ensure proper care for the resting places of those who built our cities yet were denied equal access to land and financial resources. We have the opportunity now in Charleston to recognize burial sites as a core part of the landscape of historic places that deserve protection.”

– Brian Turner, President & CEO, Preservation Society of Charleston.”

Community leader Fred Lincon pictured where construction of a residential development in Cainhoy was halted when developers were notified of the presence of unmarked African American burials

Community Engagement 

Over the course of 2023 and 2024, the project team will work with the community to identify, research, and define the locations and boundaries of burial sites to inform a data layer, which will be integrated into the City’s databases as a planning and preservation tool. The most important phase of this project is engaging the community to listen and learn about significant local history that is not readily accessible in municipal records.  

Black history has been severely under-collected and underrepresented and often exists more so in personal memories, oral tradition, photographs, and family papers than in formal archives. With this in mind, outreach efforts are getting underway in 2023 to provide a platform for community members to shape this project by sharing their knowledge of Black burial sites significant to their neighborhood and family histories. The PSC is honored to be partnering with members of the Anson Street African Burial Ground Project research team, La’Sheia Oubre and Joanna Gilmore, to facilitate this dialogue.  

Stay tuned for opportunities to make your voice heard and shape the outcomes of this mapping effort. Contact Anna-Catherine Carroll, Manager of Preservation Initiatives, with questions at 


Learn More 

Mapping Charleston’s Black Burial Grounds | Virtual Lunch + Learn 

African American Civil Rights Grant Program 

City of Charleston Cemetery Protection Ordinance 

Anson Street African Burial Ground Project 

City of Charleston Mayor’s Office 

International African American Museum 

Tulane University Historic Preservation Program 

Preservation Leadership Forum Discovering Our Ancestors and Preserving Historic Gravesites Webinar Series