Words + Links

15 Powerful Stories of Segregation in America.” Buzzfeed, September 17, 2019.

"Surviving the Journey.” Richmond Free Press, August 30, 2019.

The Costs of the Confederacy.” Smithsonian Magazine/Type Investigations, December 2018.

Monumental Lies.” Reveal/Center for Investigative Reporting, December 2018.

Demanding Justice for Shahidul Alam.” Aperture, August 9, 2018.

For the Forgotten African-American Dead.New York Times, January 7, 2017.

My Inspiring Year Uncovering Forgotten African-American Graves.” Narrative.ly, August 31, 2016.

These Volunteers Have Been Cleaning Up Abandoned Black Cemeteries.” Buzzfeed, July 9, 2016.

Why Does This Old Cemetery Matter?” Reading the Pictures, May 10, 2016.

Race Trips.Colorlines. Seven-part series, with Erin Hollaway Palmer, July 8 to August 3, 2015.


Images from Evergreen Cemetery, September 14, 2015

I took a walk around Evergreen Cemetery after sunset yesterday as Erin and volunteer Melissa unearthed fragment after fragment of slate from a funeral plot at neighboring East End—perhaps remnants dumped by an unscrupulous roofer.

Parts of the center area right at Evergreen's entrance, which is roughly the size of a football field, had been raggedly mowed. But areas where machinery can't reach, such as those right around headstones, were islands of weeds. New plastic flowers decorated a patch of dirt dimpled with tire tracks and footprints. A road encircles this one- or two-acre field. The other 59 or so acres of the cemetery are off to the right. This is forest, dense with trees of all types, brambles, Chinese sumac, poison ivy, yucca—and all sorts of other greenery, brownery, and beigery that I don't recognize. For some reason, last night, in the weak gray light, I felt a little ... apprehensive, as if a bear might creep out from around a bend. The place feels that wild now. Only one plot, that of the Walker family (as in Maggie Lena Walker), appears to have been tended recently. There, the weeds weren't quite up to my knees.

We, the volunteers who clean up East End Cemetery—a similar program at Evergreen ended years ago after a disagreement with the owner—had been told by various people that UK Corporation, listed in tax records as the legal entity responsible for Evergreen, had contracted with a timber firm to clear cut there. We greeted that prospect with a little bit of hope and a lot of trepidation. Less foliage: good. Trees crashing down on fragile headstones, heavy trucks plowing ruts into burial plots: frightening. There's no indication that any such major work has started, but I did see at the edge of the ring road pieces of a stout tree that been chainsawed. I had been told that UK Corp's phone had been disconnected, but a voicemail—not a human—picked up when I called tonight.

A small green car rolled around the ring road as I was finishing up. A young black woman in a white tank top stepped out and walked across the grass/weeds to a plot 30 feet or so off the road. I walked over to the car to talk to the driver, and to show that I wasn't going to sneak up on a loved one paying respect to the deceased. "I see the cameras," the man behind the wheel told me. The way they neglect the place, "it's despicable," he said. Anything I can do to publicize the condition of the place, he told me, that's good . "A picture's worth a thousand words, right?" he said.