East End Oral History Project

Black Virginians from all walks of life are buried at East End Cemetery. There are lawyers and letter carriers, ministers and midwives, bankers and barbers, teachers and tobacco stemmers—a true cross-section of African American society. Their stories, spanning slavery, the Civil War, segregation, and Civil Rights, are waiting to be discovered and shared. While there is much to learn from headstones and documents, many details live only in the memories of descendants. With our oral history project, we aim to ensure that those details—largely excluded from the public record before the Civil Rights era—are recorded, preserved, and disseminated.


Jody Lynn Allen, Ph.D., is a native of Hampton, Virginia, and an assistant professor of history at William & Mary. Her research interests cover the U.S. Civil War through the Long Civil Rights Movement focusing on black agency. Her current manuscript, Roses in December: Black Life in Hanover County, Virginia, During the Era of Disfranchisement, considers the consequences of and responses to the 1902 Virginia constitution revisions that disfranchised most African American males. Jody is also the director of The Lemon Project: A Journey of Reconciliation, which is uncovering, making public, and addressing William & Mary’s 326-year relationship with African Americans on the campus and in the Williamsburg and Greater Tidewater area. Jody is serving as the academic adviser to the East End Oral History Project.

A filmmaker and musician, Alec Gary works as an editor and shooter for the Branching, a Richmond-based production company. His work in film and music has been showcased in festivals around the U.S. Alec brings his expertise to the East End Oral History Project as videographer.

Ryan Gary is a freelance sound engineer, musician, and music producer. He has taught music and language in China, and developed teaching curricula for various international schools. Ryan collaborates with many Richmond film productions and local musical artists doing postproduction sound work and studio session work. He is in charge of audio recording for the East End Oral History Project.

Brian Palmer is a Peabody Award–winning journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Nation, Smithsonian magazine, and on PBS and Reveal radio. Before going freelance in 2002, he served in a number of staff positions, including photographer and Beijing bureau chief (US News & World Report), writer (Fortune), and on-air correspondent (CNN). In 2009, Brian completed Full Disclosure, a video documentary about his media embeds in Iraq with U.S. Marines. He is a founding member of the Friends of East End Cemetery and has been documenting the restoration effort since December 2014.

Erin Hollaway Palmer is a freelance editor, writer, and researcher. The former managing editor of Parade and National Geographic Adventure magazines, she has worked on a wide variety of print and online publications over the past 15 years. She is one of the founding members of the Friends of East End and has pulled more vines and collected more broken glass since 2014 than she would have thought possible. Her East End–related research and writing are featured on the website she helped create, eastendcemeteryrva.com.

Melissa Pocock, board secretary of the Friends of East End and fundraising ace, is among the longest-serving volunteers at the cemetery. A graduate of William & Mary, with a degree in anthropology and focus in historical archaeology, she spent three summers in Barbados as part of W&M’s archaeological field school program; in 2008, she helped lead the excavation at the George Washington House in Bridgetown. Since 2014, Melissa has served as an alumna representative on the Lemon Project Committee on Memorialization. She brings her passion for preservation to East End, where she guides volunteers in the careful recovery of fragile, long-buried grave markers with infinite patience and enthusiasm.

Gilberto Tadday is a photographer, multimedia producer, and film editor based in Brooklyn, New York. With an extensive editorial career, he has been published in magazines and newspapers in several countries, including the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Spain, and Portugal. Gilberto is editing all video for the East End Oral History Project.