skip to Main Content
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.

HOUSE BILL 1099 — HISTORIC AFRICAN AMERICAN CEMETERIES PRESERVATION STUDY AND FUND (UPDATED 4/27/21)

House Bill 1099 was filed in the 2021 session of the Maryland General Assembly by Delegate Al Carr of Montgomery County. Building on the prior efforts of Delegate Pam Queen, the bill was intended to assist Marylanders who care about African American burial sites in their communities.

HB 1099 directed two actions:

  1. To study issues facing historic black cemeteries, including conditions and needs, how other jurisdictions are protecting and managing these fragile historic resources, and how any proposed initiative would be funded. This study would be conducted in one year by appropriate organizations, some named and others generally described.
  2. To create a fund that will provide grants to qualified applicants. Individuals and organizations would be eligible to apply to “identify, preserve, restore, protect, maintain, or commemorate graves, monuments, or markers at historic African American cemeteries.”

As with most everything in life and law, the “devil is in the details.” The bill started on the General Assembly process with a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on February 24. It was conducted virtually via Zoom. Sign-ups to submit brief written or two minutes of oral testimony were required in advance; everyone could watch via the General Assembly link.

Following an introduction by Del. Carr, witnesses testifying in favor of this legislation were Elly Cowan of Preservation Maryland (who covered policy, importance of the study, how proposal differed from current African American Heritage Grants), then Eileen McGuckian for the Coalition to Protect MD Burial Sites (who noted state-wide need and support, how this will assist ALL African American cemeteries, and what other states are doing in this regard). Elinor Thompson, activist from Anne Arundel County and member of Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture, described her experiences, as did Reginald Bishop, caretaker of multiple cemeteries in Harford County and a Coalition board member.

Other witnesses who testified were organized by a Montgomery County group that has long sought justice for a Bethesda cemetery that was removed and paved over in the 1950s for development. These speakers requested amendments to HB 1099 that would have drastically altered the bill. Neither legislators nor bill proponents found the amendments workable. These specific demands hurt the chances for assistance to African American cemeteries this year, and the bill never advanced for a vote in the 2021 session.

Knowing how important it is to document specific issues and situations related to Maryland cemeteries, and particularly African American sites, the intent of HB 1099 will continue to be pursued. 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. This fact must be addressed with solutions.

The study portion of the bill will be directed not by legislation, but instead by budgetary action of the Appropriations Committee. This preserves the bill’s goal of providing valuable data to determine need for financial or other assistance.

The Coalition remains committed and available to work with public and private entities toward a good result. Please direct any questions, descriptions of specific Maryland cemetery situations and issues, ideas, and thoughts to coalitionpmbs@gmail.com.

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

Uncovering a mysterious 18th-century burial ground at Baltimore County’s Marshy Point park

(Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)
Dave Oshman, president of Marshy Point nature center council (left), and Daniel Dean, research chair with Marshy Point nature center council stand behind a recovered tombstone that includes the name “Cassandor Hamilton,” which is the burial place of Cassandra Hamilton, who was born in the 1700s and died in 1794.

Just between Saltpeter Creek and Dundee Creek on the eastern side of Baltimore County, Marshy Point Nature Center attracts bountiful wildlife to its Upper Chesapeake wetlands.

On any given visit a guest might encounter frogs and toads in its vernal pools, seasonal ponds that dry up in the summer, or see majestic eagles soaring across the creek. Kids love checking out the chickens, owls and vulture near the nature center.

But the sights aren’t limited to wildlife.

Just past a dry-docked boat in the parking lot sits a gray tombstone from more than 200 years ago. Few of the visitors to Marshy Point Nature Center even realize it’s there, much less stop to read its inscription:
“In Memory of CASSANDOR HAMILTON Who Departed this Life October 1 1794 Aged 42 Years.”

Read more...

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...
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...
Back To Top