• Field Stones, Post Holes, and Unmarked Graves: Burial Commemoration Beyond the Gravestone

    by Robyn S. Lacy The capitalist market of death and burial is nothing new for North Americans. Overpriced caskets, expensive urns, and strangely specific rules in different cemeteries add an increasingly overwhelming price tag for which individuals must deal. The commodification of death as discussed by Jessica Mitford (1963) is a practice old enough in North America to have been the subject of study for decades. While artistry goes into the creation of gravestones and memorials today, much of the lettering and design is sandblasted or cut with other machinery, even though historically the lettering and iconography often were hand-carved by skilled masons. The more lettering the customer wanted –…

  • Justice for Nadia: Remembrance and Grief from Femicides in Mexico

    by Marlene Melissa Davila Death is never easy. Not even in a country where millions celebrate Día de los Muertos surrounded by cheerful music and colorful decorations, as a means of remembering their deceased loved ones. For most, death is a journey of grief and sorrow that ends with resilience: “moving on” as we tend to call it. But for those like Blanca Martínez, who lost her daughter, Nadia, in March 2020, it is a never-ending journey of unresolved pain and loss. On March 8, 2020 (International Women’s Day), Nadia was violently murdered while driving to her home in Salamanca. To date, no suspects have been arrested, and her case…

  • How an Embalming License Freed Sarah Corleto from an Abusive Husband

    by Kami Fletcher, PhD In November 1912, Saveria Fidance Corleto (later renamed Sarah) swore in a Wilmington, Delaware court that her husband of seventeen years, Anthony Corleto had “treated her with extreme cruelty.” Saveria testified that the physical abuse started in September 1910. She went on to state that Anthony frequently hit her, knocked her down and that the beatings were so severe that they left visible marks and bruises on her body. In November 1912, Saveria Fidance Corleto (later renamed Sarah) swore in a Wilmington, Delaware court that her husband of seventeen years, Anthony Corleto had “treated her with extreme cruelty.” Saveria testified that the physical abuse started in…

  • Cemetery Credibility and What It Means to Be a Descendant

    by Adam Rosenblatt, PhD In a video posted on YouTube in late May, three women sit on chairs outdoors. Their green surroundings might take a moment to recognize as a cemetery. You can just make out the headstones and small American flags on the grass. These women—Viola Baskerville, Veronica Davis, and the Rev. Delores McQuinn—are prominent voices in Richmond, Virginia’s African American community. Davis is a public historian and preservationist, and McQuinn currently sits in the Virginia House of Delegates. Baskerville is a lawyer and former politician. She opens this video, titled “Evergreen Cemetery Legacy,” with a key fact: she has ancestors buried in the cemeteries that surround her, East…

  • African Diasporic Bereavement Stories in the UK Through ‘Repatriationscapes’

    by George Gumisiriza “I could smell something,” said a Gambian participant in my pilot focus group, a group I assembled to research contemporary studies on death in the UK in order to understand how studies have ignored Afrocentric perspectives and how Western stories have evaded Afrocentric deaths, grief, and losses only confining them to outside the mainstream.   The focus group, by this time, broken into small groups, consulted with each other in their native languages expressing a deep-seated emotion over not only the idea that their fellow Gambian had not been sent back home for proper burial but also that where he died in Europe was unknown.  This unresolved…

  • Confederate Monuments in Cemeteries, Reminders That We Cannot All Rest In Peace

    by Sandra Baker I will never forget the moment our hearse drove through the confederate section at a local cemetery. Roughly a dozen family cars trailed behind and my heart sunk as we passed by each one of them. As we came to our tent, a statue of General Robert E. Lee was only a few yards away. While easing the casket out of the back of the hearse, Lee stared, valiantly posed atop a rearing horse, as if ready for battle. I wondered how many other African American burials General Lee had been a part – during his life as a slave holder, and in death as a recurring…

  • Under Block Houses on Zachodnia Street: Liquidation of the Old Jewish Cemetery in Lodz, Poland

    by Lucja Lange Lodz is an atypical Polish city. Historically it was viewed as the “Promised Land” and “City of Dreams”. Some say that it grew in “American speed.” Industrialization, driven by dreams of wealth and a good life, brought people from around the world, seeking new opportunities. But with this influx of new communities, there grew a need for community burial grounds. At first, the Jewish inhabitants of Lodz had to take their deceased to Lutomiersk or Strykow, but on April 4, 1811, together with the Society of the Holy and Nursing of the Sick, a local cemetery was established at Wesola Street, which was city-center. Expanding from 6,500…

  • Death and Dignity: The Exploitation of Corpses in Guanajuato’s Mummy Museum

    by Marlene Melissa Davila Naked corpses stand alongside each other with expressions of suffering in the dark corridors of the maze-like museum. Where everything is seemingly arranged to shock the viewer. “Welcome to the Mummy Museum, it’s 100 pesos for two tickets.” Says a woman behind the counter. It’s been almost 150 years since the state of Guanajuato in Mexico opened its Mummy Museum with more than one hundred mummified corpses ranging from 7-month-old fetuses to 70-year-old men and women. Over the last 10 years this museum has attracted thousands of visitors, all hoping to catch a morbid glimpse of the extraordinary effects that the mineral rich soil can have…

  • Reclaiming Marginalized Deaths through Data Analysis, The Case of Geer Cemetery

    by Kaylee P. Alexander, PhD In Plain Sight: Reflections Past & Actions Present in Durham’s Geer Cemetery is an outdoor educational exhibit examining the history of Durham, NC’s first public African American cemetery.  The exhibit runs through April 3, 2021 and is spearheaded by Nicholas Levy and Debra Taylor Gonzales of the Friends of Geer Cemetery (FoGC), a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection, preservation, and reclamation of Geer Cemetery and its attendant histories.  In Plain Sight came together through countless hours of volunteer research, writing, and installation work to recover and share the history of this space and the individuals buried within it. According to the exhibition’s website, this…

  • Recording and Recovering the Past: African-American Cemeteries in Athens, Georgia

    by Tracy L. Barnett African-American cemeteries across the South are vanishing—not from descendants’ memories, but from the physical landscape itself. For decades, infrastructure development and urban renewal projects have disrupted the final resting places of Black men, women, and children. Across the United States, but especially in the South, white city and university leaders have knowingly and unknowingly disinterred Black bodies, destroyed gravestones, and repurposed cemetery grounds. In other instances, lack of perpetual care has allowed the landscape itself to strangle the dead. Ivy, kudzu, wisteria, and other fast-growing plants choke fieldstone, marble, and granite tombstones—all but obscuring them from the view of a well-meaning passerby or curious descendant. These…