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150 Years of Telling Their Stories: History through the Lens of Greenwood Cemetery, St. Louis’ Oldest Non-sectarian Black Cemetery

Panel Discussion

Abstract

This panel will discuss the work of the Greenwood Cemetery Preservation Association to preserve the stories of African Americans buried since its conception in 1874. Through the work of dedicated descendants and activists, the cemetery was saved from development in the late 90s and gained a place on the national register of historic places. Since then, the Greenwood Cemetery Preservation Association, made up of volunteers and descendants, has dedicated itself to researching, preserving, and telling the stories of the nearly 50k that call it their final resting place. While there are a few nationally recognized names buried there, such as Harriet Scott, co-defendant and wife of Dred Scott, the real treasure of the cemetery is in the lives of its ordinary citizens, which is the story Greenwood strives to share. In an age of resistance to the inclusion of black history in K-12 education, public history fills the gap for what is being banned in classrooms. In its activism, Greenwood Cemetery’s role as a public history site offers a unique and compelling story that captures an audience, regardless of their race, telling the story of St. Louis, of its people, and those who thrived and lived in the area with all its challenges.

This panel will include Greenwood’s historians and archivists, board secretary of the Greenwood Preservation Association, and a St. Charles Community College faculty member as they discuss the work of the cemetery and how it connects the people of St. Louis and its surrounding areas to a complex history of the city, of the nation, and of race through the lens of the everyday people who are buried there. Community outreach and volunteerism is a key part of the cemetery’s operation, and as a result creates a community of activism and personal investment in the preservation of African American history. The story of Greenwood may serve as an example for how to navigate the preservation of difficult history in the context of larger censorship.

Speaker information: Etta Daniels, Greenwood historian & archivist, Shelley Morris, historian & board secretary of Greenwood Preservation Association; Grace Wade Moser, professor in history at St. Charles Community College, Cottleville, Missouri, who has been collaborating with Greenwood through student service-learning projects since 2020.

African American Public History and Memory Local and Community History 20th Century

Session Participants

Professor Grace Moser, Professor at St. Charles Community College

Chair; Panelist

Grace Wade Moser is a professor in history at St. Charles Community college just outside of St. Louis in Cottleville, MO. She has been working with the Greenwood Preservation Association since 2020 connecting students to service learning projects researching & archiving burial records for those interred at Greenwood, along with helping to maintain the grounds and reclaim land from secondary growth and neglect. Her students gain experience with historical research and archive skills while still freshman and sophomores, experiencing historical preservation firsthand, all while serving the larger community.

Etta Daniels, Greenwood Cemetery Preservation Assoc. Historian

Presenter

Keona Dordor, Washington University in St. Louis

Panelist

Shelley Morris, Greenwood Cemetery—St. Louis

Presenter