This presentation is part of the International Cemetery Preservation Summit, April 8-10, 2014 Niagara Falls, NY.
Saving and Preserving Burial Grounds of Enslaved African Americans by Sandra A. Arnold
Development of the Burial Database Project of Enslaved African Americans began from independent research conducted by Sandra Arnold (Fordham University) after she discovered the burial site of her enslaved ancestors. Her research revealed that burial grounds of the enslaved hold valuable genealogical and anthropological findings which can provide important information about the life and culture of enslaved African Americans. It also revealed that most enslaved burial sites are overwhelmingly abandoned, undocumented, desecrated by developers and lack proper memorialization. Her work concluded that as these burial grounds disappear from our landscape, an entire population of people are at risk of being lost in the American consciousness, taking with them history and heritage.
Operating from the premise that all burial sites are sacred, the mission of the Burial Database Project of Enslaved African Americans is to locate and identify burial grounds of enslaved African Americans in the United States. We are developing a digital archive that will record these sacred sites by collecting and storing pertinent information through online submissions provided by descendants, property owners, churches, community organizations and concerned citizens. The project website began taking submissions on February 1, 2013. To date, it has received over 100 entries of burial grounds throughout the Unites States containing thousands of individual graves.
A primary goal of the Project is to create a publically accessible national burial registry to assist those who continue to search for lost members of their ancestry, as well as advocate for preservation and protection of the burial sites. The collective impact of such a registry will serve as a valuable research tool to scholars, historians and institutions interested in reconstructing the history of American slavery. Most importantly, it will bring into national focus a lasting memorial for the enslaved population.
Sandra A. Arnold is the Founding Director of the Burial Database Project of Enslaved African Americans, which is currently housed at Fordham University. The Project is developing the first and only national registry to document burial grounds of enslaved African Americans. In addition, Ms. Arnold is on staff at Fordham in the departments of History, African and African American Studies, and the Latin American and Latino Studies Institute. She also serves as an advisor in the Office of Student Leadership and Community Development at the university’s Lincoln Center campus.