On August 27th I grabbed a green tea at Kayak’s Café at 270 N. Skinker Blvd. with Jennifer Colten, senior lecturer in photography at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University. On Sunday she will present a look at the past, present, and future of the historical burial ground that is known as Washington Park Cemetery as a way to start a conversation regarding the historical importance of this cemetery.
A friend of mine reached out to me regarding the upcoming event and after viewing the details I immediately reached out to the museum to see if I could speak with Colten. We talked about her interest in Washington Park Cemetery and its significance to the City of St. Louis. The cemetery has been through so much and its current physical state is devastating to say the least. But there is still hope, all isn’t lost. I decided to stop by the Washington Park Cemetery located at 4650 S. McDonnell Blvd, Berkeley, Mo. The sun was shining and there was a light breeze. I felt proud to be standing on land that was once dedicated to my people before me, people that lived during an extremely rough time. I walked around taking note of the many tombstones paying attention to the dates. Some of the tombstones showing birthdays as early as 1892. Here I was standing in the largest cemetery, established in 1920, founded by two business men, Andrew Henry Watson and Joseph John Hauer. I decided to research other African American Cemeteries to see not only the physical condition but to be in the mist of strength, resilience, endurance and community.
In doing my research I came across the Quinette Cemetery which is located in Kirkwood at 12188 Old Big Bend Rd. and is said to be the oldest African American Cemetery being founded in 1866. My next stop was Greenwood Cemetery located Hillsdale at 6571 St. Louis Ave. According to the Greenwood Cemetery website people of importance that rest here include but not limited to: Harriet Robinson Scott, wife of Dred Scott, Lucy Ann Delaney, wife of Zechariah Delaney, Charlton Hunt Tandy and Charles Prentiss, Musicians such as “blues man” Milton Sparks, Blues hall of fame inductee Walter Davis, Traveling minstrel show performer Harry Fiddler, Jazz guitarist Grant Green and Folk hero Lee “Stagger Lee” Shelton.
I was born and raised in St. Louis, Mo and yet there is so much to be learned about this city. Folks are always complaining that there isn’t anything to do in our city, I beg to differ. I’m looking forward to the Washington Park Cemetery: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow presentation this Sunday at the Missouri History Museum. It’s time to open a dialogue about our history, our people today.
For more information regarding the event: http://www.mohistory.org/node/56774 to learn more about Greenwood Cemetery: https://greenwoodcemeterystlmo.wordpress.com/ to learn more about Washington Park Cemetery please come to the event at the Missouri History Museum this Sunday.
*All photos included in this blog were taken by Erica Van Buren.