Actions You Can Take to Help Preserve African-American Graveyards
South Carolina SC African-Americans Grave Matters – Introduction Help Preserve African-American Graveyards
Perhaps the single most important step you can take to preserve and protect African-American graveyards is to keep their history alive. If you are an older member of the community and know of such a cemetery, tell your children and grandchildren about it. If you can, take them out to the property and show them what you know about the graveyard. If you are a young member of the community, ask questions – Where were the graveyards? What families were buried there? How many people were buried there? What were the cemeteries called?
By keeping the history of these cemeteries alive you are helping to make sure that others can learn about this heritage. Try to make contact with the property owner and ask them for the right to visit the cemetery. Help them understand that you feel as strongly as about this graveyard as they do about where their relatives are buried. Work to find compromises which allow access while respecting the rights of the property owner.
You must also, however, be alert to dangers. You must be aware of survey parties flagging the property, efforts to post the property, changes in ownership, the erection of new fences or the locking of gates, and the appearance of heavy equipment. While there are unscrupulous individuals, many people are simply not aware that a cemetery exists on their property.
If you feel that a cemetery is about to be damaged or destroyed, contact the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at 803-777-8170. This agency coordinates with law enforcement, medical examiners, and coroners and may be able to provide you with additional guidance and assistance. By contacting the Site Files Manager at this agency you will be able to officially record any cemetery you know of. The site file manager will help you complete the necessary paper work and assign the site a permanent number. Although this doesn't guarantee protection, it will help ensure that land planners are aware of its location.
You may also contact us here at Chicora Foundation and we will help put you in contact with others that may be able to provide assistance.
Chicora Foundation, Inc
PO Box 8664 • 861 Arbutus Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29202-8664
Grave Matters – Introduction
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