In the rural outskirts of St. Louis, in 1874, Greenwood Cemetery was formed to serve the African-American population growing here after the Civil War. This rolling, 32 acre site became this community's first non-sectarian commercial cemetery open to African Americans.
Until Greenwood closed to burials in 1993, more than 50,000 people were laid to rest here: Buffalo Soldiers and domestic workers, musicians and civil rights leaders, whole families both named and undocumented. This history, still being researched and written, remembers the persistence, hardships and gifts of black individuals' human lives - a remembrance now being restored.
Greenwood shares a fate with other cemeteries with no church or other stewarding relationships, that hold the folk of poor and marginalized people. Human neglect dumped trash on the property - and nature's forces took over. But friends arose to reclaim the history and natural grace of this place. Descendants of those interred and academic professionals formed Friends of Greenwood Cemetery in 1999. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. With much more work to do, this circle of support is growing.
The Greenwood Cemetery Preservation Association brings this story to Earthworms. Guests are Shelley Morris and Rafael Morris, Secretary and President of the GCPA board; Becky McMahon of DJM Ecological Services; and Ann Eftimoff of World Wide Technology.
Music: Slide Blues, performed live at KDHX by Brian Curran.
THANKS to Anna Holland, audio engineering ace.
Related Earthworms Conversations: Green Burial (January 2017)