A large, flat rock marks the grave of Lewis Dickson. (Courtesy CNN)
Preserving African American cemeteries from the era of slavery and Reconstruction was featured recently on CNN International.
“Forgotten Graves Home to the ‘Invisible Dead,'” by John Sepulvado, highlights problems of preservation that are familiar to genealogists: little documentation, makeshift or deteriorated markers, and lack of funding to maintain burial sites.
One of the people quoted is Michael Trinkley, Executive Director of the Chicora Foundation, a non-profit archeological consulting group active in the preservation of African-American cemeteries in the South:
“The problem with preserving these types of sites is that African American cemeteries are hard to find,” Trinkley notes. “You can think of the people buried there as the invisible dead. And not knowing where they are, or how many there are, makes them susceptible to loss.”
Of African American burial sites in South Carolina, Trinkley says, “The areas that were used for burial grounds, those areas were close to water. They were considered waste areas, places where burying slaves wasn’t a significant loss to the planter. Those areas today are among the most sought-after for real estate.” Chicora also publishes a Research Series, containing results of project-based research for various sites throughout the South.
For more information on preserving African American cemeteries, Grave Matters published excellent resources from the Chicora Foundation about preserving African American cemeteries: