Sunday, March 21, 2010

Greenwood Cemetery Clean-Up Project

The following article first appeared in the AAHGS News, November/December 2009, a publication of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc.

Do your Missouri family ties include Saint Louis County?

If so, Greenwood Cemetery, located at 6571 Saint Louis Avenue in Hillsdale, Missouri, desperately needs your help. The first non-sectarian African-American Cemetery founded in 1874, contains thirty-one acres of hallowed ground and is the final resting place of 30,000+ African Americans: including former slaves (e.g., Dred Scott’s wife, Harriet), veterans, and other community members. A partial listing of Greenwood Cemetery inhabitants can be found at http://www.usgennet.org/usa/mo/county/stlouis/greenwood/1874-1908burials.pdf

According to Etta D., who is on the Board of Directors for the Friends of Greenwood Cemetery Association, “Greenwood has not received regular maintenance since the late 1980's and most of it is an overgrown wilderness at this point. We - The Friends of Greenwood - are desperately trying to find a solution.” By not cleared, I thought she meant weeds. “…More than weeds, Anita. The neighbors, in the houses surrounding Greenwood, refer to it as ‘The Jungle’, which is exactly what it looks like at this time.”

A year after our initial correspondence, while in Saint Louis for the weekend, I visited ‘the Jungle’ in search of the final resting place of one of my grandfather’s first cousin’s, Shepherd Boyd, and saw for myself what 20 years of neglect had done. As I walked around the area, I imagined my own family’s cemetery in Mississippi undergoing a similar fate. Without family-funded perpetual care, it was only a matter of time. It's a cautionary tale for anyone interested in preserving the memories of their loved ones.

NB: I'm still searching for Shep!

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