Paperback / softback
November 17, 2020
9781421439273
English
328
116125
52
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
0.85 Inches (US)
1 Pounds (US)
$34.95 USD, £26.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference
Electronic book text
November 17, 2020
9781421439280
9781421439273
English
328
116125
52
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
$34.95 USD, £26.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Death and Rebirth in a Southern City

Richmond's Historic Cemeteries

This exploration of Richmond's burial landscape over the past 300 years reveals in illuminating detail how racism and the color line have consistently shaped death, burial, and remembrance in this storied Southern capital.

Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy, holds one of the most dramatic landscapes of death in the nation. Its burial grounds show the sweep of Southern history on an epic scale, from the earliest English encounters with the Powhatan at the falls of the James River through slavery, the Civil War, and the long reckoning that followed. And while the region's deathways and burial practices have developed in surprising directions over these centuries, one element has remained stubbornly the same: the color line. But something different is happening now. The latest phase of this history points to a quiet revolution taking place in Virginia and beyond. Where white leaders long bolstered their heritage and authority with a disregard for the graves of the disenfranchised, today activist groups have stepped forward to reorganize and reclaim the commemorative landscape for the remains of people of color and religious minorities.

In Death and Rebirth in a Southern City, Ryan K. Smith explores more than a dozen of Richmond's most historically and culturally significant cemeteries. He traces the disparities between those grounds which have been well-maintained, preserving the legacies of privileged whites, and those that have been worn away, dug up, and built over, erasing the memories of African Americans and indigenous tribes. Drawing on extensive oral histories and archival research, Smith unearths the heritage of these marginalized communities and explains what the city must do to conserve these gravesites and bring racial equity to these arenas for public memory. He also shows how the ongoing recovery efforts point to a redefinition of Confederate memory and the possibility of a rebirthed community in the symbolic center of the South.

The book encompasses, among others, St. John's colonial churchyard; African burial grounds in Shockoe Bottom and on Shockoe Hill; Hebrew Cemetery; Hollywood Cemetery, with its 18,000 Confederate dead; Richmond National Cemetery; and Evergreen Cemetery, home to tens of thousands of black burials from the Jim Crow era. Smith's rich analysis of the surviving grounds documents many of these sites for the first time and is enhanced by an accompanying website, www.richmondcemeteries.org. A brilliant example of public history, Death and Rebirth in a Southern City reveals how cemeteries can frame changes in politics and society across time.

About the Author

Ryan K. Smith is a professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is the author of Robert Morris's Folly: The Architectural and Financial Failures of an American Founder and Gothic Arches, Latin Crosses: Anti-Catholicism and American Church Designs in the Nineteenth Century.

Endorsements

"A timely and compelling book combining the strands of history, archaeology, ethnography, and preservation. Most importantly, Ryan K. Smith conveys the voices of descendants and other community members who care deeply about these sacred and historic burial sites."

- Lynn Rainville, Washington and Lee University, author of Hidden History: African American Cemeteries in Central Virginia

"Exceptionally well written, unfailingly clear and engaging, and sometimes even stirring."

- Erik R. Seeman, University at Buffalo, author of The Huron-Wendat Feast of the Dead: Indian-European Encounters in Early North America

"In Death and Rebirth in a Southern City, Ryan Smith forces Americans to realize that marginalization in death is an acute reflection of the systemic oppression experienced in life. With a historical, social, and cultural lens honed by years of teaching public history, Smith pushes us to see cemeteries not as ethnic mortuary enclaves or even siloed spaces, but landscapes impacted by slavery, genocide, and Jim Crow segregation, in a way that maps a fuller and more complete history of how only some groups truly rest in peace."

- Kami Fletcher, Albright College, editor of Till Death Do Us Part: American Ethnic Cemeteries as Borders Uncrossed

"Death and Rebirth in a Southern City brings into sharp relief the issues of race, power, and memorialization that haunt Richmond's politics and culture. Smith deftly weaves together a definitive history of Richmond's cemeteries with the stories of citizen-historians and activists who are currently struggling to redefine the city's memorial landscape. Most disturbingly, he documents how a history of disrespect for Black bodies mirrors the larger culture's disregard for Black Lives even today."

- Gregg Kimball, The Library of Virginia

Reviews

"Undoubtedly, Death and Rebirth in a Southern City is an invaluable resource for understanding deathways in Richmond and the region more broadly. At a time when the city's memorial practices are coming under increasing scrutiny, Smith's powerful text provides residents with a primer that might help us construct a more inclusive practice of memory."

- Erin Krutko Devlin, University of Mary Washington. - Virginia Magazine

"Deeply researched and focused as much on the voices of those in the past and present who have used and engaged with these cemeteries as on the physical landscapes themselves, Death and Rebirth in a Southern City offers an important new framework for engaging with burial sites as part of the constantly evolving dynamics of race, class, and religion in American society."

- Joy M. Giguere, Penn State, York, author of Characteristically American: Memorial Architecture, National Identity, & the Egyptian Revival - Journal of the Early Republic

"Death and Rebirth in a Southern City: Richmond's Historic Cemeteries engages audiences on the relevance of public history as studied through the preservation of white and Black burying grounds in a city that was once the capital of the Confederacy."

- Eleanor Breen - The Public Historian

"This is a timely and compelling book that combines the strands of history, archaeology, ethnography, and preservation. Most importantly, it provides credibility for the voices of descendants and other community members who care deeply about these sacred and historic sites. The author has done a masterful job of providing the historic context for centuries of burials and helping the reader understand why these sites still matter today."

- Lynn Rainville, Washington and Lee University, author of HiddenHistory: African American Cemeteries in CentralVirginia, and Invisible Founders: HowTwo Centuries of African American FamiliesTransformed a Plantation into a College - Buildings and Landscapes

9781421439273 : death-and-rebirth-in-a-southern-city-smith
Paperback / softback
328 Pages
$34.95 USD
9781421439280 : death-and-rebirth-in-a-southern-city-smith
Electronic book text
328 Pages
$34.95 USD

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