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Saving African American Cemeteries


Saving African American Cemeteries

Discussion on how to acquire and receive assistance for the upkeep of known, abandoned black cemetary plots and churchland.

Members: 51
Latest Activity: Dec 9, 2014

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Comment by Bill Drayton on July 25, 2010 at 11:39am
It is absolutely vital not only that African American cemeteries are preserved but that descendants of those buried there have free access to these places. It is a SCANDAL that in too many cases access has been denied!! OK, they may be on private land. However, surely there must be a way whereby people can pay respects to their loved ones.
Comment by Alane Roundtree on May 11, 2010 at 9:01pm
Hi Debra,

Toni Carrier of the USF Africana Heritage Project has provided some very sound advice and references regarding cemetery preservation. Well worth the read!

Cemetery Preservation: A Growing Concern

Comment by Debra Green on May 11, 2010 at 5:30pm
I am interested in obtaining information on how to acquire and receive assistance for the upkeep of an abandoned black cemetery in Chester co, Pa that was adjacent to the African Union Church in West Marlborough. My gggrandfather ( a Civil War veteran and his wife are buried there. You wouldn't know that a cemetery is there by its condition. I've talked to a member of the area's historical commission to volunteer to help clean it whenever it is convenient for him to take me there. It's off the beaten path. Any suggestions?
Comment by Mavis Jones on April 29, 2010 at 4:50pm

I know that there was one survey done back in the 80s, which is how I knew my great grandfather was interred there. More recently, the East Georgia Genealogical Society (EGGS) tried to survey / resurvey all the cemeteries in Walton County Georgia. EGGS noted that they were denied permission to come onto the property to resurvey and as a result, used the earlier survey of the cemetery.
Comment by Alane Roundtree on April 27, 2010 at 7:13am
Hi Mavis,

That's good news that you were able to obtain photographs of your ancestors' markers.

This is from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Guide to Cemetery Preservation (Dec. 2008):

"Laws in Georgia addressing access to cemeteries on private land reserves the owner the right to refuse entry to anyone other than a descendant of people buried in the cemetery. Even descendants are not given outright authority under any law to come onto private property, but must negotiate terms of access with the landowner."

Here is a link to the PDF document:

I would continue to try and have a dialogue with the land owner to be able to gain access to the cemetery for the purpose of surveying it if that has not already been done.

Comment by Mavis Jones on April 27, 2010 at 4:55am
Thanks Alane. The cemetery is located in Walton County, GA. Through volunteers (FindAGrave and others). I've actually been able to get pictures of the tombstones of my ancestors that are buried there. And as of yesterday, even have better pictures of what the entire cemetery looks like. I know that an almost cousin (we have a line in common) has also been able to obtain pictures of some of her ancestors. I'm not sure how folks that have taken pictures have gained access to the property but of course I'm grateful that they did.

Right now, I'm not financially in a position to rescue the cemetery but am hoping to inspire the family to perhaps pitch in and just trying to determine how to proceed.

Thank you for the input.
Comment by Alane Roundtree on April 25, 2010 at 8:46am
Greetings Mavis,

Where is the cemetery located?

You need to familiarize yourself with the laws governing cemeteries in that state. In some states, the owner of private property on which a cemetery, burial ground or grave is located, MUST allow ingress and egress to that cemetery, burial ground or grave.

The statutory requirements regarding who has the right to gain access to a cemetery located on private property should be spelled out in the state's Code of Laws. Typically this includes family members and descendants of the person or people buried in the cemetery, but could include persons doing genealogical research who have the written permission of a family member of the deceased person(s) buried in the cemetery.

The first step to exercising your ingress or egress rights usually entails giving written notice to the owner of the property that you are requesting ingress and egress rights and that you meet the conditions spelled out in the state's Code of Laws. The property owner then has a set number of days to respond to the request (i.e. 30 days). If they do not respond, you can they appeal to the court in the county where the cemetery is located for relief.

Try doing a search for your state's code of laws regarding cemeteries to learn more about your access rights, or contact a representative in the county where the cemetery is located to learn more about the laws governing your rights.

You may also discover that the property owner is in violation of desecration laws by allowing the cemetery to be used as a pasture for livestock.

Comment by Mavis Jones on April 24, 2010 at 12:56pm
Does anyone have guidance of how to proceed if the cemetery is on private property? The last time the area genealogical society tried to survey the cemetery where some of my ancestors are buried, the owner refused (that was around 2003).

Have also recently learned that the cementery is fenced in and used as a pasture for goats / cattle. Have attached a picutre to give the feel.

Comment by George Geder on February 3, 2010 at 8:43pm
Hi Porsha!

I echo the Family Griot's sentiments!

"Guided by the Ancestors"
Comment by Family Griot on January 30, 2010 at 10:31am

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