“In…my research, this lack of care came to serve not as a sign of direct neglect and abuse by property owners but more so of a sign of forgottenness and unknown property ownership” (Fletcher 5).
Quick Facts on the Cemetery
(Assembled by Justin Fair (abridged from larger presentation by Mr. Justin Fair, MCRP of Morgan State University):
● Currently rests 43,000 Baltimoreans within 33.917 acres. Is an inactive burial ground, meaning that there are no more plots for sale for internment.
● It appears that a cemetery-as-a-business model is how most operate, not as non-profit endeavors. Yet it is privately-owned without a consistent campaign to finance its ongoing maintenance.
A Cemetery as Culturally Significant
● “Rural Cemetery”, curvilinear in form; “pastoral” setting / “rolling and open landscape”; plots vary from grave markers, to monuments, to headstones, to none at all. Some shallow burials result in infill of depression.
● Blacks have different environments views and behaviors than Whites (Parker; Jones 230) – spiritually “the growing concern for eternal salvation and health became prevalent, cemeteries abandoned traditional urban forms and locations by taking on aspects of the country or rural form to create pure and sacred space.” (Jones 230)
● Rural cemeteries purposely contrast “the structure of urban life ending in death to the ethereal and cerebral environment of life ever after.” “Rural cemeteries provided both instruction and pleasure by allowing visitors to enter in a state of possible anxiety and deliberate purpose, and hopefully depart calm and contemplative.“ (Jones 231)
Cemeterial Practices / Site Design
● Cemetery grounds allow for visitor to be in ‘full physical harmony’
● Blacks emphasize the free-flowing quality of the natural world, but to Whites this appears sloppy and unrefined. Whites think of cemeteries as rows of neatly kept graves, not pastoral landscapes.
● Grave markers vary from ‘improvisonal”, to traditional european norms, to not being permanent at all – [Current day observance includes] a variety of plants, wooden boards, statuary, dolls, photos, or fabric”
● Ethereal grave markers = Ongoing rituals, not an interest in permanence.
● Current grounds are the result of ““a lack of collective personal responsibility for upkeep of the plots.” (Jones 234)
Black Baltimore’s Views have changed from 1882 to 2018
Today there’s a strong contrast between today’s families’ views of grave care and that of past families. There’s still a care of the cemetery as a “sacred space…spaces of connection…communion with the ancestors” (Jones 236; Barrie 2010).
● 1882: “non-interference with nature” (Jones 235). Grave markers could be temporary or permanent, depending on the family’s beliefs and upkeep
● 2018+ – Plots might include sculpture/monument upkeep or may include plastic ornament and momentos.
Although, today’s modern burials include embalming, a concrete encasing of the casket; full-time groundskeepers to keep grave pristine. This belief is a direct contrast to older beliefs.
In addition, many families’ loved ones are now buried at other popular memorial parks and share programming with funeral homes’ life celebration venues, like King Memorial Park (in Dogwood, MD) and March Funeral Homes.