The Texas African American Cemetery Registry: An interview with lead graduate research assistant, Jennifer Blanks
Jennifer explains the Texas African American Cemetery Registry, the goals and purposes of the registry, and why we need your knowledge of Black burial grounds! This interview has been edited for length and clarity, read or listen to the whole interview here.
What is the Texas African American Cemetery Registry?
The Texas African American Cemetery registry is a voluntary database of Black burial grounds in Texas. The aim is to create a resource for stewards, to help us provide assistance that will help them determine the best way to protect and preserve their cemetery.
Do you have any goals of the cemetery registry you’d like to share?
We’ll hear “I know of a cemetery that’s in deplorable conditions and is inaccessible” or that there are issues around ownership of a burial ground – one of our goals is to help address those issues and help stakeholders and descendants preserve their cemetery and make it a place in space that they’re proud to visit where we can honor ancestors in a dignified way.
What other uses does the information have, for example, in terms of threat assessments?
Texas faces a host of issues – environmental issues and concerns related to the built environment – we can’t prevent or mitigate against those issues if we do not know where the cemetery is.
Who should submit to the registry?
Anybody can submit to the registry – we are interested in collecting information of any known Black burial grounds. Cemeteries are one of the best proxies to helping us identify freedom colonies, but even if it is not a freedom colony cemetery it is still important to have because it helps us understand and spatialize what kinds of issues and threats Black cemeteries in the state of Texas are facing.
What can you upload to the registry?
It can be pictures, old maps, handwritten maps, obituaries – do not think that any information is too small or too much. The simplest clue is sometimes our biggest hint in helping us identify a freedom colony. Please take advantage of the Texas African American Cemetery Registry and we look forward to looking at your uploads!