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Promoting the preservation and protection of the burial sites, cemeteries, and grave yards in Maryland.

Promoting the preservation and protection of the burial sites, cemeteries, and grave yards in Maryland.

Historic African American Cemeteries Preservation Study and Fund

House Bill 1099 will assist Marylanders who care about African American burial sites in their communities by creating a fund that will provide grants to qualified applicants. Individuals and organizations can apply to “identify, preserve, restore, protect, maintain, or commemorate graves, monuments, or markers at historic African American cemeteries.” Maryland’s historically large black population is evidenced in its proportion of cemeteries, but it is over-represented in the numbers of abandoned and unmaintained sites today.

HB1099 mandates a one-year study of the issues facing historic black cemeteries, including how other jurisdictions are managing these fragile historic resources, and how this initiative would be funded. The following year, caregivers and owners can apply for specific projects.

The Coalition supports House Bill 1099 and urges you to do the same. Contact your Delegates to let them know that African American cemeteries are an important part of Maryland heritage. Please personalize your message as much as possible. State-wide support is crucial.

Here is a link to the bill: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Legislation/Details/hb1099?ys=2021RS

The House Appropriations Committee hearing on February 24 was conducted virtually via Zoom.
Sign-ups to submit written or oral testimony were required in advance; everyone could watch via the General Assembly link.  The order of witnesses was:
• Elly Cowan, Preservation Maryland – covered policy, importance of study, how different from current African American Heritage Grants
• Eileen McGuckian, Coalition to Protect MD Burial Sites – state-wide need and support, will assist ALL African American cemeteries, what other states are doing in this regard
• Elinor Thompson, from Anne Arundel County, cemetery activist, member of Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture          africanamerican.maryland.gov
• Reginald Bishop, from Harford County, caretaker of multiple cemeteries, Coalition board member

Other testimony: The floor was then taken over for almost an hour by a group from Macedonia Church/River Road Cemetery in Montgomery County. Each speaker had the same demands: amend the bill to accommodate this group, keep “white preservation NGOs” from controlling African American cemeteries, and that reparations are needed for obliterating the River Road cemetery decades ago. In short, the vocal Macedonia folks would rather everyone starve than share help for all.

Questioned by Delegates, proponents stated that this bill will help ALL African American cemeteries in Maryland and that the proposed amendments are completely unacceptable. Also noted was that Virginia has such an earmarked fund.

The next step is for HB 1099 to be assigned to the Transportation and The Environment Subcommittee, which will review written and oral testimony, and then make a recommendation to the full Committee. Now is the time to demonstrate your support for the bill as written, without amendments that narrow its scope, assistance, and efficacy. Contact your Delegates on the Subcommittee and Committee, using the information below.

Updates will continue to be posted here as more information becomes available.

Questions:  contact Eileen McGuckian at phileen3@verizon.net or 301-468-7331. Please send her a copy of your letter of support.

For a list of all members of the House Appropriations Committee visit: https://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/06hse/html/com/01app.html

Members of Transportation and The Environment Subcommittee:
Marc Korman, Chair, District 16, Montgomery County, marc.korman@house.state.md.us
Carol Krimm, Vice Chair, District 3A, Frederick County, carol.krimm@house.state.md.us
Ric Metzgar, District 6, Baltimore County, Ric.Metzgar@house.state.md.us
Wendell Beitzel, District 1A, Garrett and Allegany Counties, Wendell.beitzel@house.state.md.us
Trent Kittleman, District 9A, Howard and Carroll Counties, trent.kittleman@house.state.md.us
Jazz Lewis, District 24, Prince George’s County, jazz.lewis@house.state.md.us

Most of us imagine a burial as a respectful and dignified laying to rest of a person who touched our lives and contributed to our culture.
Over time, however, burial sites in Maryland have too often been neglected, not maintained, unprotected, and the victims of expediency and exploitation by persons seeking a short-term economic or personal goal. The Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites (CPMBS) believes that neglect or the willful desecration or destruction of burial sites is unacceptable in a civilized society. Our members appreciate the importance of burial sites as hallowed grounds, irreplaceable cultural resources, and sources of valuable genealogical data often found nowhere else.

CPMBS is a State-wide nonprofit organization of volunteers dedicated to protecting and preserving historic Maryland cemeteries. Membership in the Coalition is open to Marylanders and others who care about their heritage and their ancestors. The Coalition recognizes that many burial sites are established through a purchased right of burial that is protected by the laws of Maryland, with such right passing on to the relatives of the deceased, and which right cannot lawfully be abridged by others at will. These beliefs led individuals in the summer of 1991 to form a group that would address concerns not covered by existing laws and organizations. Learn more by reading About Us.

The Coalition is grateful for financial assistance from Preservation Maryland and the Maryland Historical Trust to enable this website.

News

Historic Designation of Maryland Cemeteries, Part Two – State and National Levels

by Anne Brockett, February 2021
As discussed in the last Courier, local designation as a historic site is a powerful means of protecting cemeteries in Maryland. Historic designation by a city or county government provides protection from inappropriate changes to keep the historic character of cemeteries intact.

While local designation often affords the strongest level of physical protection, cemeteries can also receive protection and recognition by inclusion in the one or more of the following:
• Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties
• National Register of Historic Places
• National Historic Landmark listing

Read more...

Cemetery steward cleans up African American graves in Deale and looks to have its history recognized

By DONOVAN CONAWAY
CAPITAL GAZETTE | FEB 01, 2021

Elinor Thompson has started cleaning a cemetery in Deale where her in-laws’ family has ancestors buried and has been marking possible unmarked graves along the way.

Tanyard Cemetery, also known Franklin Cemetery, is an African American cemetery owned by Franklin United Methodist Church. Tombstones mark dates ranging from 1842 to 1982 and the site contains over 120 graves, many unmarked and many with hand-carved stones.

The property used to include two buildings, a place where cowhides were tanned and a meeting house that was one of the oldest Black Methodist gathering places in southern Anne Arundel County, said Thompson, the cemetery project manager and steward.

Read more...

Alexandria Chapel Cemetery Project

Alexandria Chapel began the onsite work of identifying unmarked graves on October 24, 2020. Special thanks to Alexandria Chapel volunteers, the District Superintendent of the Washington East District, Rev. Dr. Johnsie Cogman, the Charles County Planning and Growth Management Office, Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites and the African American Heritage Society of Charles County for their work on this project. There’s more work to be be done, but we are pleased to share this video created by the Charles County Planning and Growth Media Office.
Read more...

Archaeology of African American Benevolent Societies

Exploring the history of Morningstar Tabernacle No. 88 of the Ancient United Order of the Sons and Daughters, Sisters and Brothers of Moses and United Order of Tents.

On September 12, Dr. Alexandra Jones of Archaeology in the Community hosted an amazing panel of women discussing the archaeology and history of African American benevolent societies.  

You can watch a replay at your leisure. You may recognize panel speakers who have been heavily involved in preservation efforts related to the Moses Hall No. 88 and Morningstar cemetery site in Cabin John, MD. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=aUuiLgnEYSY&feature=youtu.be

Read more...

Halfway’s Lost African-American Cemetery: The Story Unfolded

“Hood College students will study the area and will eventually turn into a peaceful park for the descendants’ families.”
by: Caroline Morse
Posted: Jun 24, 2020 / 11:07 PM EDT / Updated: Jun 25, 2020 / 07:18 PM EDT
https://www.localdvm.com/news/halfways-lost-african-american-cemetery-the-story-unfolded/

“I just feel bad that people are buried here that were getting trampled over or lost by the overgrowth or forgotten about,” said Neighbor Elizabeth Paul. “That was even before I knew the historic significance.”

Halfway’s historic Colored Cemetery dates back to 1844 and laid to rest over 400 unmarked graves. Spanning over seven acres, Good Samaritans and Daughters of Samaria bought the land in 1897. But, as decades passed, the land was forgotten about, sold in the 1950’s and eventually developed into a neighborhood.

“It was very common for African-American cemeteries to have been built over or just abandoned in the past,” said Hood College History Professor Emilie Amt. “This one became a housing development but this little piece of half-an-acre or less was preserved for a while and then it was abandoned and neglected.”

Read more...

MDOT SHA Cemetery Inventory app is under way with initial volunteers

In 2018, after working on a number of projects on previously unidentified burial grounds, MDOT SHA Chief Archaeologist Dr. Julie Schablitsky had the idea to create a mobile application that would allow volunteers passionate about cemetery preservation to use GIS and Cloud data storage technology to record the location and condition of burial grounds throughout the state. This data could then be shared responsibly with appropriate public and private entities to help protect and preserve both recorded and unrecorded burial grounds.

After years of design, testing, and extensive public feedback MDOT SHA Cemetery Inventory is live and undergoing its most extensive testing to date. Currently more than 150 volunteers have signed up to collect and upload data using the mobile web-based application, allowing archaeologists and GIS specialists at MDOT SHA to develop best practices to collect, vet, organize, and share the location, description, and photographs of Maryland burial grounds.

After an extensive round of testing and troubleshooting this summer, the app will eventually be made publicly available to individuals and groups interested in using it to help record and protect Maryland’s burial grounds. Information on how to participate in the future will be available on the CPMBS website.

Alexander D. Keim, PhD
MDOT SHA Archaeologist

Read more...
Events

Meetings are open to all members.

Grants

Applications for Trader Foundation Grants are Due on July 1, 2021

The Trader Foundation for Maryland Burial Sites provides financial assistance for worthy projects to rejuvenate endangered historic Maryland cemeteries. The Foundation invites applications for grants up to $2,000 to qualified parties. Application deadlines are January 1 and July 1 of each year.

The project or program must benefit a specific burial ground in Maryland, and Trader funds must be matched by the grantee in cash or in kind. Examples of eligible projects include rescue of an endangered site, gravestone conservation or restoration, documentation, protection of burial site from desecration by nature or by man, cemetery clean-up, and planning for restoration. For further information and the application form, click here.

Apply now...
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