Love Cemetery, Unburying
the Secret History of Slaves
it's set in a remote part of rural East Texas, the story of Love—the
historic black cemetery that I've been working to reclaim with the
African American community—is really about the choices set before us
I've pursued the question of how this community, descended from a
group of prosperous black farmers, suddenly found themselves locked
out of their communal burial ground in the 1960's, I've unearthed a
quintessential American story of land theft, racism and environmental
destruction that plays out in different versions in New Orleans, Iraq,
and Darfur. I've also had to look at how the shadow of our racist
history even affects the very people who have gathered to save this
we choose love when there's reason to hate? Can we claim and
conserve a corner of sacred ground in the face of overwhelming
exploitation: intensified oil and gas drilling and the loss of
land, water and forests to development?
Can we take a stand for the Ancestors in this nearly 175 year old cemetery or will they too be lost, like the memory and names of the millions of African Americans and Native Americans upon whose suffering this country was built?
My answer is this book, Love Cemetery, this ragged story of a shared, emerging, communal process of healing; imperfect but headed always, always toward healing.
This book is aimed at the heart. Stories are what move the world and change us from the inside. The African-American farming community that Love Cemetery is a vestige of was part of a great, brief flowering of African American civic participation, business enterprise, education and culture that occurred shortly after the Civil War, only to be crushed in the 1880's by the re-disenfranchisement of the African-American community, the rise of Jim Crow and the unrepentant white racism that remains deeply embedded in North American society. Only after the 1954 Brown decision and the rise of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s was there again a possibility of the democracy that we still dream of and work towards today.
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