Home > Uncategorized > Cemeteries and Modern Memory: From China to WFAA

Cemeteries and Modern Memory: From China to WFAA

I, personally, haven’t been terribly impressed with “Love Cemetery,” thus far, predominantly because I feel continuously thrown by her casual writing style. I’m fairly certain one more metaphor about wisteria will drive me over the edge. However, the topic itself, the problem of collective (selective) memory and altered history is massive and vastly interesting. In my American Politics class we’re currently discussing the underlying political theory powering the Constitution and that is the issue of controlling factions, of making sure that no majority faction can rise up and dictate standards and life for the rest of the population. It seems to me that the type of passive (or in some cases, much more active) attempts to cover up these burial grounds of people enslaved, of freedmen who suffered under Jim Crow laws, is a peculiar uprising of a majority faction — a majority faction of white guilt wishing to sweep this past away. Thus, in many ways, this issue of counties and peoples failing to pay due respects and historical reverence to these burial grounds and memories is un-Constitutional, is thoroughly un-American.

I mentioned the news station WFAA in the title of this blog because as I was up watching the news, I was pleasantly stunned to discover a story over Fox Hembry Cemetery of Lewisville, TX in which people have finally come together to clean up this sacred ground, much the same way as people came together for the betterment of Love Cemetery. Apparently the cemetery dates back to the early 1800s, as have many of those which we’ve visited as a class, but has not yet been granted any official signage or protection. During the clean-up, workers found everything from new gravestones long disguised by weeds to used needles.

The City of Lewis, TX official town website doesn’t mention Fox Hembry under its listing of historic sites (among which other cemeteries are listed) so I am depending primarily upon WFAA for the facts of this cemetery.

(their website’s story: http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/Volunteers-tackle-trash-at-historic-Lewisville-cemetery-114427079.html)

According to WFAA reporter Debbie Denmon, the cemetery has existed for approx. 180 years but has “recently” become the victim of a frightening level of illegal dumping. This led to a volunteer outpouring for the clean-up of this site. The clean-up has uncovered much older graves with epitaphs which are no longer legible. The older ladies of Lewisville who have been trying to maintain the cemetery for years are calling for police patrol and an official Texas historical marker to better honor the lives of the people buried there.

According to another, less official website, “Who’s Playin’? Life and Liberty in the Lone Star State,” (http://www.whosplayin.com/xoops/modules/news/article.php?storyid=1959&com_id=86239&com_rootid=86239&) the cemetery is exclusively African American and was founded in 1831. The road leading up to the cemetery is old, unpaved, and un-managed and the dirty needles are, apparently, also accompanied by porn DVDs and used condom wrappers. Old tires are strewn about the cemetery along with general garbage and even bricks and business cards.

Hopefully, now that the Keep Lewisville Beautiful volunteers are finally involved and paying attention to this issue, the cemetery will not only be cleaned but also begin to be viewed by others as a sacred and historic site. It is astonishing to me to think of people driving up and actively dumping garbage right next to graves old and new, some with fresh flowers laid before them. But this must be another means of rewriting (as well as continuing) parts of history. It seems that as a nation we are generally guilty and unwilling to speak about every atrocity that’s taken place in our history from the genocide of the Native Americans to the enslavement of African Americans — after all, how often have modern American ghost stories utilized the old “the house was built on a Native American burial grounds” bit? We hardly ever actually ask why it must be an African American cemetery before it may be so desecrated or a Native American cemetery before it may become such horror story fodder — questions that we need to do more than simply realize but which we must also answer and work to rectify.

How can we go about fixing these problems? Are there other methods beyond clean-up crews? Could smaller steps also work toward this goal — steps so small as having a conversation about them, as acknowledging the importance of these places to ourselves and others?

 

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