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AAHSP Presents Tracks of our Tears:
A Virtual Tour of the UNDERGROUND RAILROAD Sites & People of Portsmouth, VA

Tracks of our Tears: Virtual Tour

Virginia Tech's Department of History won the 2020 Elizabeth B. Mason Award from the Oral History Association for Voices of Virginia

Elizabeth B. Mason Award

An Auditory Primary Source Reader. The African American Historical Society contributed an interview with George Colden to this initiative, which is a resource for teachers telling Virginia history from a social justice perspective. Inquiries can be sent to:

Cemetery Preservation

Happy Easter Sunday Morning:
Our Lord and Savior has Risen today in the Hearts of Mankind:
Let us rejoice and be glad!

In Honor of Our Lord's Rising: Let's remember to continue to do His work.

This letter is a call to Action: Who will Answer the Call? Lord, send me!

Lincoln Cemetery is in District 3, Cavalier Manor. It is in Voting Precinct 20. There are 2 Civic Leagues and a number of Churches with Members who can answer the Call to Action. There are Homeless Men and Women who can answer the Call to Action.

Portsmouth Christian Church owns the Lincoln Cemetery. Pastor Todd and Pastor Gerton needs to call the other church members in District 20 to get up and answer the Call to Action.

There is a Monument in this Cemetery to Honor those who gave their life for the Liberty we enjoy today.

We need to remember the past so we don't repeat it.

Evidently, we have forgotten our past, see what we are enduring now?

Contact Mrs. Mae Haywood, (757) 487-9431 or, she will direct you on how to restore our past.

Mount Calvary Cemetery Project

  Mount Calvary Cemetery Preservation Project

Calling all Volunteers, Church Groups, Boy Scouts, Masonic Lodges, Fraternities, Sororities, Civic Leagues, Students, and Teachers!

Wanted: Volunteers and donations for...
The preservation of the Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex. Est. circa 1879 by slaves. A burial ground for historical Portsmouth African American citizens: lawyers, doctors, soldiers, preachers, teachers, et. al. It is a city owned cemetery of 4 different cemeteries: Mt. Calvary, Mt. Olive, Fisher’s Hill, and Potter’s Field. I. C. Norcom, educator, Jeffrey T. Wilson, Dr. J. J. France, and Ida Barbour are all buried in this cemetery. The cemetery has been neglected for many years and needs preservation. The cemetery has many broken stones, markers and monuments.

We have some starter state funding, a masonry company, and one company who will donate bricks for some of the family plots needing brick material replacement.

Contact: Mae Breckenridge Haywood or Charles Johnson. 757 292-1045, For the months of March, April and May on Saturdays

  I.C. Norcom Historic Marker Project

January 26, 2018. The African American Historical Society unveiled the historical marker.  New historical marker to honor I.C. Norcom High School’s namesake, Israel Charles Norcom, a local black educator in the late 19th and early 20th centuries .Marker was sponsored by the AAHSP society. Dedication photo-gallery

  Portsmouth Colored Community Library Projects
Please support the Portsmouth Colored Library Museum projects with monetary contributions, adopting an artifact (we have several artifacts which were listed on the VA TOP 10 ENDANGERED ARTIFACT LIST and needs to be conserved, i.e. the 1939 Scrapbook of first librarian, Mrs. Bertha W. Edwards, the 1926 Norcomium Yearbook, and the 1878 Love and Charity Ledger, etc.) Funds will be applied to the conservation of each item. Donors may also help with in-kind donations of goods or services as well. The African-American Historical Society is a non-profit 501 C 3 organization and all gifts to the Society for the collection and management of the artifacts are tax-deductible. We have a wonderful collection of artifacts, photos, rare (African American titles), and memorabilia from our historic city of Portsmouth. Come and make discoveries.

Cost $25. Collection of popular projects the Board of Directors of the Colored Community Library favorite recipes by board members plus photos of African American historical sites. Cookbooks are still available.

  Oral Interviews
A Change is Gonna Come 2015/2016. Completed this grant provided by VFH/UVA of the users to Portsmouth Community Library as well as the people who changed the library into a museum. Video is on CH. 48 Portsmouth City Channel, Cox Cable and shown in the museum. Video can be viewed at the Portsmouth Colored Community Library Museum.

  Picture This - Photographs of African American historical sites in Portsmouth
Photographs prepared by students of Photography class at Churchland High School - April, 2016. Funds provided by Beazley Foundation Inc. Books of Picture This will be available after January 2017.

•  Portsmouth (Colored) Community Library Restoration Project
The society is working on restoring and moving the library to a new site in order to develop the library into a museum. The museum will store various artifacts pertaining to Portsmouth's African American culture.

  Boy Scouts Project
The society collected the history of the Boy Scouts of Portsmouth and hosted a Boy Scout Banquet honoring former Gosport District Scouts. Research on Boy Scouts in Portsmouth to be published soon.

•  The Underground Railroad in Portsmouth
The Underground Railroad was, in reality, neither underground or a railroad. It was, as its name implies, however, a highly secretive and complex system of parterships and transportation routes by which African Americans escaped slavery in the South.

This website explores the partnerships and routes that ran through Virginia. It examines the wharves, steamships, and schooners on which fugitives departed. It explores the safe houses that were used, the conductors who assisted, the routes that were taken, and the enslaved African Americans who ran away.

•  Unfinished Business: A Survey of Black Businesses in Portsmouth, Virginia, 1920-1975
The history of businesses owned by blacks in Olde Towne are being researched by society members. Some of the businesses already under consideration are: Chambers Detective Agency and Portsmouth Branch Journal and Guide, Bailey's Barber Shop, Fuller's Shoe Repair, Colden Funeral Home, Richard's Barber Shop, Fisher Funeral Home, Woodard's Grocery, and Nancy Wheeler Funeral Home.

•  Dr. Hugo Armstrong Owens Photography Project
Challenged by Dr. Owens to be maverick photographers and follow in the footsteps of reporter Lee F. Rodgers, society members are photographing Portsmouth's black history for historical collection.

  African American Cemetery Project
Currently the US Gen Web Archives, Portsmouth, VA, now includes a listing for Mt. Calvary , Mt. Olive & Fisher's Hill Cemeteries, April 2006—Mae Breckenridge-Haywood & Dinah Walters. This lists tombstone inscriptions from these cemeteries. Visit the listing at

•  Fisher's Hill Cemetery: Restoring an African American Landmark.
The Friends of Fisher's Hill are looking for volunteers to help bring a forgotten history back to life. This African American cemetery is in desperate need of donations for repairs and research. A community service project that is perfect for corporations, religious institutions, military units, civic groups, and schools. For additional information visit the website:

•  Portsmouth African American Museum
The former Portsmouth Community Library will soon be renovated (01-08-2010). The PCL board has been writing grants, sponsoring Black History Month programs, and presenting community service awards to worthy Portsmouth citizens.

•  Obituary Project
The society is collecting obituaries of prominent people in Portsmouth's African American history

•  A Tale of Two Churches
A grant project of society member and Norfolk State University professor, Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander in partnership with the African American Historical Society of Portsmouth. The focus of the project is to investigate Underground Railroad activities in Portsmouth, Virginia. Two sites of particular interest in the archeological research study are Emanuel A.M.E Church and Monumental Methodist Church. The society will assist in the research, study, and collection of artifacts pertaining to the project.

•  African American Tours
Anticipated tours of African American historical sites in Portsmouth.


Press Release pdf | doc


High Five to HistoryIn 1944, Friends of the Colored Library" donated $1.00 toward building the Colored library. Now we are asking for a donation of $5.00 or more to continue our "High Five for History" legacy campaign to continue support of the Portsmouth African American Museum and Cultural Center.

African Americans in Portsmouth built a strong, insulated community because they were cognizant of the need to look inward. Whether assisting the pre-Civil War escapes through the Underground Railroad, forming banks, publishing a newspaper, or providing recreational facilities, Portsmouth's African Americans created one of the most stable middle-class black communities in America. Early 20th-century leaders such as Dr. William Reid, Nancy T. Wheeler, and the Reverend Harvey N. Johnson Sr. were civic models and guiding forces for a community emerging from the ravages of slavery, and enduring the hardships of segregation. Available from the authors, on the Internet, or through your local bookstore.