Last week I got to help give away one of those giant-sized checks—you know… like Ed McMahon. It’s a great feeling to give one of those things away…nothing makes people feel happy like giving them an over-sized check. The check was actually from the Arkansas Humanities Council and was destined for the Washington Hill Cemetery Association. The money was a grant to help Washington Hill with their cemetery preservation project as a part of an AHC grant initiative geared at helping to document and preserve endangered African-American cemeteries. My organization, the Arkansas Archeological Survey, is partners with the AHC in this initiative. My services are a required, but free, part of the grant process…
You may remember me talking about my take on cemeteries in earlier posts, but over the last 4 years I have become increasingly involved in cemetery preservation in southwestern Arkansas. I’m often way behind on these projects, due to my busy schedule…but they are dear to my heart. Archeology can be a very abstract and esoteric pursuit, but my cemetery projects are an example of concrete “good” that my discipline can do—actually helping real people with real problems.
You can see more pictures from Washington Hill Cemetery and the grant check ceremony on my Flickr page (follow the link below):
This year two projects have worked to bring the issue of cemetery preservation to the public. In March, AETN premiered “Silent Storytellers,” a film project by Hop Litzwire and Casey Sanders that explores some of the many issues surrounding cemetery preservation in Arkansas. This film includes sections on a couple projects that involve the AAS/AHC…and mentions a few cemetery projects here in southwestern Arkansas; including the successful Paraloma Cemetery preservation project in Sevier County, the very endangered Oak Grove Cemetery in Hempstead County and Cedar Grove, a postbellum African-American cemetery in Lafayette County that had to be excavated and relocated by archeologists in the 1980s. You can find out more at the AETN website:
The second documentary is “Buried Treasures – The Stories of the Bold Pilgrim Cemetery”–a short documentary that looks into the lives and final resting places of African-Americans who migrated to Conway County, Arkansas in the late 1800’s. AETN has not aired this documentary yet…but you can view it online at:
Also…you can see both of these documentaries if you are attending the April 30-May1 workshop put on by the Preservation of African American Cemeteries, Inc. to be held at the University of Arkansas at Monticello…Check out the below link for program details…
I’ll see some of you there…or maybe I’ll run into you in some cemetery in Arkansas.