Wednesday, November 10, 2010

History in the News

Happy Wednesday, fellow graveyard enthusiasts! As a Durham resident and a lifelong learner, I'm always trying to increase my knowledge of local history. I think it's important to know the history of the community in which one lives.

Today, was a banner day for local history here in Durham, NC! The cover of today's Durham News has two great articles about local history. One, below the fold, was entitled "Author-activist's home cleaned up" and was all about activist Pauli Murray's home next to Maplewood Cemetery. Groups of volunteers (residents of six surrounding neighborhoods) have spend the past few years truly making a difference at her home on Carroll street. In case you are not familiar with Pauli Murray, the article explains that she was "denied admission in the 1930s to graduate school at UNC Chapel Hill because of her race and to Harvard because of her sex. She went on to become a civil rights lawyer, an author and storyteller, a poet, and the first African American woman ordained in the Episcopal Church" (page 6A, The Durham News, November 10, 2010). Murray's book, "Proud Shoes: The story of an American Family" is catching national attention as is her life story these days. The groups of people that are taking the time to not only clean up her house, but further document her story for future generations are making a difference in all of our lives. Kudos to them.

Above the fold, in today's Durham News, was another impressive story about history-- "Who Owns Geer Cemetery?" outlines the background of a local cemetery that has become the permanent home of over 1500 residents, including key church founders in the Durham community as well as the "father" of NC Central University. It sounds like, from the article, that there's a Friend's group, and local groups, elementary school students, boy scouts (and hopefully someday Girl Scouts, too) are helping to keep the cemetery clean. College students are doing the research to locate a chain of custody for the title for the land; but regardless, following NC Statutes, the cemetery has reverted to the City of Durham. They have a solid track record, with Beechwood and Maplewood Cemeteries under their care- and both are in fabulous shape. The article quotes Preservation Durham, key Durham resident/local Historian R.Kelly Bryant, Jr, and demonstrates that the effort to not only clean up but maintain this local history gem is truly evidence that our community can pull together to preserve our past, honor our founders, and teach our children about not only pitching in, but to also respect those that came before us.

It's encouraging, that in this day and age, in this fast paced society, our local paper can honor the efforts of ordinary citizens that are taking the time and effort to pay homage to our early residents. As the paper said, in regards to Geer Cemetery and it's residents, "And so it rests, still."

Hats off to all of those who have taken time to make a difference. This Graveyard Rabbit is looking forward to a visit to Geer Cemetery, and hopes to get involved in the efforts to preserve and document the permanent Durhamites who rest peacefully there.

To learn more about Geer Cemetery, visit Friends of Geer Cemetery. To learn more about the Pauli Murray Project, click here.