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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Graveyards Speak

Knowledge about our history, about our past, can show up in the oddest places and under the strangest circumstances. People trace and record their family history through found documents, government records, photos, and other memorabilia. More and more genealogical data bases are being constructed and added to. Be sure to check the resources at BlackPast.org when beginning a family genealogy search or for refining research already underway. And also check out this genealogy website for more information regarding descendents of the single largest manumission in U.S history until the Civil War: Robert Carter III manumitted 500 slaves on his plantation in 1791.

Graveyards can be tremendous repositories (pun intended!) if they can be found. The New York Times reported in May, 2012 that Walmart planned to build a new store in Florence, Alabama. The building site was situated next to a family cemetery where the grave markers for the white family were apparent but there were no markers for the slaves who had worked for the family. The concern was that the building would be over the graves of the slaves. Read the article to find out how the community rallied, how the City Council made decisions, how Walmart tried to do the right thing.

There have been many such instances of discovering graveyards covered by history and almost forgotten.
African Burial Ground Monument, NYC
Slave cemetery, cotton plantation, Florida
Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Roslyn, Washington
 From New York City's African Burial Ground (the African Burial Ground Monument is worth a visit to Lower Manhattan) to Virginia, all the way to slave cemeteries in Florida, back up to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, then all the way over to Roslyn, Washington where Mount Olivet Cemetery, also known as the Old Black Cemetery, can be found.

 The Chicora Foundation has assembled information on the history of African American cemeteries in the Carolinas. For more information related to cemeteries and segregation, be sure to check out this link at BlackPast.org. National Public Radio (NPR) is running a series called Dead Stop and recently featured Lincoln Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama which had been established in 1907 for African Americans and had fallen on hard times. Again, community involvement and a sense of saving and understanding the past inorder to move forward into the future, makes for an interesting story.

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