Evergreen Cemetery is located a few miles from downtown Richmond and even farther from Monument Avenue. Much of the cemetery is overgrown by junk trees, ivy, brambles and kudzu. In a small clearing is a tallish grave stone in the form of a cross and this is where Maggie Walker is buried.
And nearby is the newly placed gravestone to John Mitchell, Jr., one of the towering figures in Virginia’s African American history.
Until recently the cemetery had been overrun by creeping nature and the inexorable effects of time and human neglect.
But if you read any one issue of the Richmond Planet, it becomes clear that John Mitchell, Jr. should not be neglected or forgotten. As editor and publisher of the Planet from 1885 to 1925, Mitchell carried out a life story that is the stuff of fiction. As one colleague put it, if you summarized his life in a couple of pages, one would swear it was mostly made up.
And so, on a blustery Saturday, February 25, 2012, a few family members and interested onlookers attended a simple, yet heartfelt ceremony to commemorate the unveiling of a new grave marker for John Mitchell, Jr., a ceremony that serves in a humble way to give the “fighting editor” his due, 83 years after his death in 1929.
To browse through hundreds of issues of the Richmond Planet and other historical newspapers, visit Chronicling America, a searchable online database with nearly 5 million pages and more than 725 titles from around the country. And visit the Library of Virginia’s web exhibit about Mitchell, “Born in the Wake of Freedom.“