Cardinal direction can be difficult to gauge on a peninsula, but you leave my late grandmother’s house in Newport News headed west (I think) on 35th Street. After a couple of blocks, you’ll cross Chestnut Avenue, and the street becomes Shell Road. You are now in Hampton, and a cemetery is on your left. Don’t turn at the entry to the first part — that’s white. Go down a little further to the second — Pleasant Shade.
Pleasant Shade is, according to founder James East’s headstone, “the first cemetery to be operated and controlled by colored people in Tidewater Va.” My mother’s parents, John C. Allen jr. and Margaret Colvert Allen; her paternal grandparents, John C. Allen Sr. and Mary Holmes Allen; and her aunt Marion Allen Lomans are buried there.
I have never seen it looking wild (though it often feels desolate), but Pleasant Shade’s condition warranted the formation in 2011 of a restoration group. Its website mentions my great-grandfather John C. Allen Sr. among notable burials. Even had it not, I obviously need to contribute.
Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2011.