PolicyMic’s Christine Salek recently reported the creation of an online database by students at Fordham University which will help compile a comprehensive list of slave burial sites. The initiative was headed by 50-year-old history student Sandra Arnold, whose relatives were born into slavery.
Salek indicated that two of Arnold’s great-grandparents are buried in Tennessee with clearly marked graves. However, when Arnold would visit the burial site to pay her respects to her family, she couldn’t help but notice two unmarked grave sites that sat directly next to her great-grandparents’ graves.
“The fact that they lie in these unmarked abandoned sites – it’s almost like they are kind of vanishing from the American consciousness,” Arnold said to the source. “I thought it was awfully sad that people can get thrown away. If we have somewhere we can go and actually look and research this information, we can better understand who we are. If we lose that, where are we?” Arnold later continued, “The potential of this project is immeasurable. Not only can it properly memorialize the enslaved, it can also facilitate a mutual and respectful dialogue about a subject that is still very sensitive to many.”
It was this feeling of sadness that in part inspired Arnold to pursue the custom online database project, beginning her research at her grandparents’ plots and moving across the state of Tennessee. It is her hope that this research project will eventually lead her to identify every marked and unmarked slave burial site in the country. As The Root’s contributor Hillary Crosley noted in a recent article, African Americans are encouraged to contribute to this online database project by sharing any information they may have about slavery burial grounds across the country.