Mortuary Practices

In addition to preserving African-American cemeteries for future generations, funerary traditions, gravestones, and cemetery landscapes illustrate past attitudes towards death and community. Because of the historical importance of mortuary landscapes, cemeteries provide a window into past family networks, gender relations, religious beliefs, and local neighborhoods. In this project we take an interdisciplinary approach, combing anthropological, archaeological, historical, oral historical, sociological, geological, and environmental techniques and theories. These combined perspectives are necessary to understand the cultural and environmental context of historic black cemeteries and uncover the rich cultural and religious traditions that produced these sacred sites.

Above left: "An Old-time Midnight Slave Funeral," Hamilton Pierson, 1881, p. 284.
Above right: "A Negro Funeral in Virginia," A.B. Frost, Harper's Weekly, 1880.
Source: The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record.