Locals delve into two local cemeteries, start conversations to preserve history
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - A group of locals will gather Wednesday night to talk about the wealth of information within Valley cemeteries.
President Harry Truman desegregated Arlington National Cemetery in 1948 with Executive Order 9981, and many of the country’s cemeteries stayed divided for decades after. With that, many cemeteries remain divided. Too many historically Black cemeteries have been neglected.
A group will focus on Fairview Cemeteries in Staunton and Waynesboro, discussing the history contained in the grounds and efforts to preserve it.
“Through those cemeteries, I think we can really get a lend to African American culture, African American history, and some of those names of people that have gone forgotten when we really go in and uncover the history that exists there,” said Dean of Mary Baldwin’s College for Women and history professor, Dr. Amy Tillerson-Brown.
Tillerson-Brown said much of the Valley’s Black history traces back to those cemeteries, like one of Staunton’s first Black doctors, Dr. Morris Pannell, and Mr. William Perry, who is the namesake for the elementary school.
“Walking through these cemeteries, looking at those tombstones, we get the names and dates that people existed. They serve as almost memorials and testaments to the culture of African Americans that existed in both of those communities,” Tillerson-Brown said.
There will be a showing of “Unmarked,” a documentary about Black cemeteries in Richmond and local efforts to preserve that history. The screening is at 7 p.m. at Mary Baldwin University, but you can also join on Zoom.
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