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Showing posts from June, 2010

A cemetery myth

What We Can Tell From Unmarked Gravestones Recently a neighbor described a "slave cemetery" she'd found. When asked how she had identified it as a slave cemetery, she said the stones were (all but one or two) unmarked. This belief is totally anachronistic. Blank stones, head and foot stones with no inscriptions are not the earmarks solely of slave graves in the South. First, illiteracy was the norm for all three prevalent races in the antebellum South, enslaved and free and, second, some religions disapproved of the use of grave marking. Even amongst sects that took pride in their literacy, inscribed stones could be controversial. Varieties of Quakers and Baptists, alike, have gone through moments of discomfort with grave markings. Many genealogy sites on the internet carry a warning or observation along these lines: "There was a period when Quakers were discouraged from marking their graves. An old Quaker Burying Ground may look as if it is only partially