In 2018, two major hurricanes, Florence and Michael, crossed over the southeastern United States. They caused considerable damages state-wide, costing over $23 billion in North Carolina alone. Storm surges, rain, and high winds negatively affected historic structures and archaeological sites.

In response, Congress approved the Emergency Supplemental Historic Preservation Fund (ESHPF) grants. The National Park Service administers these grants. North Carolina received $17 million from ESHPF. These grants help communities repair historic buildings and prepare for future storm events. Local preservation groups and state agencies are eligible for funding.

The NC Office of State Archaeology received two of these ESHPF grants to support historic preservation projects. One of these projects is the North Carolina Historic Cemetery Survey. The survey will assess hurricane impacts on historic cemeteries in nine coastal counties. Findings will guide plans to protect cemeteries before, during, and after storm events. They will also foster public education and the nomination of sites to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Old Burial Grounds in Beaufort, North Carolina following Hurricane Florence
The Old Burial Grounds in Beaufort, North Carolina following Hurricane Florence. The winds and rains of Hurricane Florence destabilized the ground and caused several trees in the cemetery to uproot. This uprooting pulled over headstones and disturbed the burial plots. (Image by NC Office of State Archaeology, 2018)


A significant focus of the project is the identification of enslaved community cemeteries. Because markings tend to be obscured or absent, the locations of these cemeteries are often unknown. This places them at greater risk from storms and environmental changes. This survey will expand our knowledge of enslaved cemeteries throughout coastal North Carolina.

Fieldwork will begin in the fall of 2022!


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This material was produced with assistance from the Emergency Supplemental Historic Preservation Fund, administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Interior.