Race Matters: Historical Black Cemeteries In The Deep South Neglected, While “Whites Only” Burial Sites Remain Manicured And Beautiful

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Categories: News, Race Matters, SMH

hamilton city cemetry

SMH at ‘Are you referring to the white or black cemetery? Really????

According to USA Today:

The chain-link fence slices through the Hamilton City Cemetery, splitting it into two clearly defined sections. On one side are beautiful, grassy vistas with well-tended plots where rest some of the city’s most esteemed citizens. On the other are hundreds of abandoned, overgrown graves, some thought to contain the remains of slaves. Many are unmarked; some are inaccessible in the thick undergrowth.

At first glance, that fence seems as defiant and forbidding as the “Whites Only” signs that once defined life in this city of 1,021 about 90 miles southwest of Atlanta. But the situation at the Hamilton City Cemetery, which was established in 1828, is not uncommon in cities and towns across the Southeast. The fence represents not so much the grip of the region’s segregationist past as a disturbing dilemma in the nation’s present:

Just who owns African-American history, whether the lost stories from a worn graveyard or the very events or poetic moments that have shaped this nation? Perhaps more troubling: Who wants it and will cultivate it for future generations? It’s a question that resonates as we leave a month swelling with African-American achievement — the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday, the second inauguration of the nation’s first black president — and usher in Black History Month.

Yet those hard-won gains toward a post-racial society for the living seem to fade amid the forgotten souls in places such as the Hamilton City Cemetery. Andrea McNally, an amateur historian who’s leading an effort to have the city or Harris County clean and maintain the “black side” of the cemetery, has been repeatedly frustrated by the fact that no one here seems to know just who owns that part of the burial ground.

“Everyone I approached, when I asked about it, they said, ‘Are you referring to the white or black cemetery?'” she says. “I went to the tax office, went to the deed office. Nobody knows who owns it.”

These neglected black cemeteries are most common in the Deep South but also are seen in other parts of the country. Mansfield, Texas, near Fort Worth, faces a situation nearly identical to Hamilton’s: a fence separating a white cemetery near downtown from a black one containing the anonymous graves of former slaves. A black church there took over ownership of that cemetery.

In many instances, African-American cemeteries in the South were started by small associations of a dozen or so black community leaders around the turn of the century. As those people died off, and as 6 million black people moved North during the Great Migration of 1910-70, ownership of the cemeteries became muddled, Trinkley says.

Wow we guess black life (or death for that matter) really ain’t worth spit. This is really sad. Hopefully more people will educate themselves and reach out to help these cemeteries.

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