Uncovering hidden histories in Virginia cemeteries
MICHAEL PAUL WILLIAMS
When Lynn Rainville left Chicago in 2001 to teach at Sweet Briar College, slavery — and her ongoing fascination with what the dead can teach the living — took on an immediacy.
“I started teaching at a college that was a former plantation. And I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness. They didn’t teach me about this in any book,’ ” she recalled Thursday. “And I just started studying slavery. I’d been already studying cemeteries for a decade, American cemeteries, and I wanted to have a project I could bring my students to.”
Rainville, a research professor in the humanities at Sweet Briar, is the author of a new book, “Hidden History: African American Cemeteries in Central Virginia,” on her research at more than 150 forgotten burial sites in Amherst, Albemarle and Nelson counties.
In town for a lecture at the Virginia Historical Society, she estimated that there are tens of thousands of African-American cemeteries, churchyard burial grounds and family plots in Virginia, with “easily thousands” undiscovered. “Each community probably has dozens of black cemeteries that have not been located,” she said.
In Richmond, cemeteries such as East End, Evergreen and Woodland are overgrown and endangered. The African Burial Ground, after years of protest, was reclaimed from a surface parking lot. Other burial grounds no doubt remain undetected.
More at the link. I would be interested to know if such research has been done in Cherokee County. This area was not a hotbed of slavery but the institution did exist here; ergo, slave cemeteries must have.