African American Burial Grounds and Histories of Race in the Postemancipation South

Lecture Description

In the nineteenth century, African Americans lived intimately with death due to the exploitation, deprivation, and violence their communities suffered in slavery and freedom. In this context, burial grounds became important sites for, and signs of, community healing, solidarity, and identification. This lecture examines independent cemeteries that many Black communities established after emancipation as an example of the ingenuity and resistance that characterized African American political life following the end of slavery. The lecture also explores how, as white southerners were obliged to share public life as never before with African Americans, local white leaders often turned to burial as one means within reach to constitute racial difference and inequality anew – indeed, literally building them into the ground – by creating obstacles to Black people’s dignified burial. The inequitable distribution of resources to and within new segregated cemeteries have left us, generations later, with Black and white cemeteries often sitting juxtaposed within one town or city and serving as dramatic monuments to the material inequality that was produced through segregation.


1865-1900 African American

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