Wednesday, May 25, 2011

memorializing a 19th century African-American burial ground

This is an interesting story about an historic African-American burial ground under a parking lot in Virginia, and the fight to create a memorial honoring the people buried there, and their descendants. African-Americans, Latinos, and other minority groups in the U.S. do not get enough "air time" when it comes to issues of repatriation, respect for sacred/meaningful places on the landscape, and preservation of the past. With a few exceptions, such as Mark Leone's work, this issue is too often ignored.

Two things struck me about the article:
1) It's not at all clear that the parking lot in question is the true location of the cemetery. It is probably close, but the archaeologists are cited as saying they aren't sure and would need to test to confirm the location. Nobody else seemed to care, and there are no plans to conduct the testing. Clearly, this isn't about the actual treatment of actual bodies, but about memorializing the dead and their legacy.

2) All politics is local, as is clearly the case here. Reading both the story and the commentary suggests a deeply divided community, and this memorial was either a reason for those divisions or has become a symbol of existing problems. Another example of how important the past is in modern political contexts.

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