Brian Palmer and Erin Hollaway Palmer: The Afterlife of Jim Crow

February 15 – March 23, 2019

Opening reception: Friday, February 15, 2019 from 6 - 8pm

The Afterlife of Jim Crow is a multifaceted exhibition of photography, historical research, and volunteer programming and explores the restoration of East End Cemetery through the journalism, activism, and artistic perspective of Brian Palmer and Erin Hollaway Palmer.

The Palmers moved to Virginia in 2013 to produce Make the Ground Talk, a documentary centered on a vanished black community near Williamsburg that was settled by formerly enslaved people. It was this project that led them to East End Cemetery, an African American burial ground in Henrico County that has suffered from decades of neglect. The Palmers are members of the Friends of East End, the volunteer group leading the reclamation effort, and are documenting the history and restoration of the cemetery. “The work of reclaiming this history, on the ground and in archives, has been transformative for us,” the Palmers say. “To find a grave marker that’s been buried under dirt and brush for more than half a century, and then to document it, is to add a page to African American history—and to our collective understanding of ourselves.”

The Afterlife of Jim Crow opens a window into this years-long project. Photography, historical research, and journalism are brought together into a creative and artistic practice. The Palmers’ images communicate the personal, tactile, and unexpected details made visible by the act of reclamation. In addition, the exhibition presents the growing online archive devoted to East End—the individuals buried there, the community they created, and the context in which they lived. Visitors will be able to interact with the website in the gallery space.

Importantly, the exhibition also invites visitors to get involved in the restoration of East End, through hands-on volunteering at the cemetery itself; through the East End Quilt Collective, an ongoing project with Oakwood Arts; and through the sharing of stories, documents, and information that enrich and expand the history of East End Cemetery and those laid to rest there. 

Brian Palmer is an independent journalist. Before going freelance in 2002, he served in a number of staff positions, including Beijing bureau chief for US News & World Report and correspondent at CNN. Palmer has taught at Hampton University, University of Richmond, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and the School of Visual Arts, among others. In 2018, he was appointed to the board of directors of SVA. 

Erin Hollaway Palmer is an independent editor, writer, and educator. In New York, she was managing editor of Parade and National Geographic Adventure magazines. She now edits for a number of publications and nonprofits and volunteers as an adult literacy tutor.

The Afterlife of Jim Crow runs concurrently with an exhibition featuring photographs by Brian Palmer: Growing Up in Civil Rights Richmond: A Community Remembers, an exhibition organized by University of Richmond Museums, pairs oral histories with photographic portraits of 30 Richmond residents whose lives were altered by their experiences as children and youth during the civil rights movement. This exhibition will run January 18 to May 10 at the Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art at the University of Richmond’s Modlin Center for the Arts.


More information, including how and when to volunteer for the clean up, available at:


Related Press and Media:

Couple’s cemetery research seeks to heal sorrows, reclaim history, Michael Paul Williams, Richmond Times Dispatch

State needs to support black cemeteries, Michael Paul Williams, Richmond Times Dispatch

Restoring a segregated cemetery lost to the woods, Colm O'Molloy, BBC News

Reclaiming Black History, One Grave at a Time, Brian Palmer and Erin Hollaway Palmer, The Nation

These Volunteers Have Been Cleaning Up Abandoned Black Cemeteries, Brian Palmer, BuzzFeed News

My Inspiring Year Uncovering Forgotten African-American Graves, Brian Palmer,


For the Forgotten African-American Dead: Neglected black cemeteries deserve the same level of care that their Confederate counterparts get, Brian Palmer, NY Times