When Laurel Cemetery opened on the outskirts of
Baltimore in 1852, its owners advertised a beautiful, peaceful spot, with “high
and undulating” grounds, a public chapel, and tree-lined walks. The site had
already been used for years for the burial of black servants of wealthier white
people. But as the city’s first nonsectarian graveyard for black residents,
Laurel Cemetery was supposed to become a place where the luminaries of
Baltimore’s black community could be remembered forever.
“All who procure burials here are sure of an undisturbed
resting place for all time to come,” an 1858 ad promised.
The life span of that promise fell far short of eternity.
Today, the hill is gone. The chapel is gone. The gravestones and walks are
gone. On the site of “the city’s most fashionable burying ground,” as the Baltimore
Afro American described it in 1951, stands a Food Depot, a discount
department store, and a Dollar General, among other commercial buildings.