St. Louis County
Greenwood Cemetery was established in 1874 as the first commercial African-American cemetery in the St. Louis area. After emancipation and before the establishment of Greenwood, the majority of African-Americans in this area did not have a choice of burial location for their deceased family members – due to Jim Crow laws the potters fields and other city-owned cemeteries were the final resting places not only for indigents, but also for people of color no matter what their circumstances or status. Greenwood, with its rural location, park-like setting and 31.85 acres of beautiful well-kept grounds was a welcome change for the small but growing black middle class. Maintenance at the cemetery seems to have ended in the 1980s, as the cemetery showed a drastic loss in revenue due to decreased burials. In 1993 burials ceased at the cemetery due to deteriorating conditions and eventually vegetation was allowed to grow wild in all of Greenwood’s 31.85 acres, making it an impenetrable wilderness. Due to the many decades of neglect, the situation at Greenwood is grim. Much of the cemetery has been used as a dump site, the roads are impassable, stones have been toppled and buried, and shrubs and trees have now become impenetrable overgrowth. Despite current conditions, this site has potential as a cultural and historical resource. It has enormous potential for education, African-American genealogical research, and could be restored for hiking, biking and other activities.