Black cemeteries have too often been subjected to uprooting and neglect.
Corey Givens Jr., who works with the Lincoln Cemetery Society in Gulfport, Florida, is speaking up for those who have been sometimes literally pushed around.
“I think we all deserve a standard of dignity,” Givens said. “There should be a baseline that’s set for all of us, in life and in death.
When Black cemeteries were created all over America, they were often segregated, without the same protections or government funding as White ones, according to Antoinette Jackson, anthropology chair at the University of South Florida.
“They thought that this was going to be a place that their loved ones would be safe and rest in peace,” Jackson said. “Fast forward, and people can just seize that property or build over it, or people aren’t able to keep those kinds of things up.”
Recent years have led to rising voices. Jackson oversees the Black Cemetery Network, which connects Black cemeteries from Maryland to Florida.
In June, the Florida legislature passed a bill to assist and protect historic resting places. Congress also passed an omnibus package that included $3 million a year to preserve Black burial grounds.
“It’s still a little bit of money,” Jackson said. “Like, we need way more money, way more resources, all those things. But I always say its a good start.”
A good start doesn’t track down missing records or undo eminent domain. But for Givens and a growing number of people, speaking up has become as much of an impulse as finding out more about where their loved ones were laid to rest.
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