History of Historically Black Cemeteries

In the United States, the historical disrespect of African American burial sites is rooted in systemic racism and the legacy of slavery. Historically, enslaved people were often buried in unmarked grave sites near the homes of their enslavers, while free African Americans were buried in unmarked graves in potters’ fields. After the abolition of slavery, Jim Crow laws were established that required burial sites, as well as houses of worship, be segregated. The emergence of Black churches during this period led to the creation of Black cemeteries. Because of Jim Crow laws, however, no federal funding was provided to these cemeteries and no laws protected them from vandalism. As a result, many African American cemeteries fell into disrepair. In recent years, there have been nationwide movements to restore Black cemeteries and uncover burial sites. At the government level, the African American Burial Grounds Network Act was passed in 2020. This law claims to provide funding for the restoration of Black Cemeteries and creates a national database of historically Black burial sites.