Peter Green House, Department of History at Brown University. Providence, RI. Photograph taken on August 5, 2017.

Who, What, Where

This project began as an independent study of civil rights and memorialization in late nineteenth-century America undertaken by Mimi Eisen, a graduate student in History at Brown University, who was supervised by her academic advisor, Professor Michael Vorenberg in the spring of 2018. 

A survey of newspapers and court cases of the era led to an investigation into segregationist policies in public spaces relatively untouched by civil rights discourse: cemeteries. How were the rights and lives of the marginalized - even in death - contested, protected, and memorialized in nineteenth-century America? How about today? And what are the stakes embedded into these questions and their answers?

This study addresses these questions through the histories of three distinct cemeteries in Philadelphia. Once a popular destination for fugitive slaves and a long-thriving black community, it is also the closest major city to the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil and a site of storied, seminal commemoration. These factors, in large part, produced fascinating and troubling histories with relevance to the present. After careful research into the history of the region's burial grounds, three sites came to the fore as particularly compelling and pertinent. Of the cemeteries highlighted in this project, one is still active, another recently abandoned, and the oldest can be traced only through old maps and documents. But the stories of all three are useful entry points into questions surrounding race, empathy, and memory in modern America.

Please feel free to contact Mimi Eisen for more info.