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For the Forgotten African-American Dead

Jim Crow’s legacy has many faces. In this case, as the article For the Forgotten African-American Dead (Brian Palmer, 7 Jan 2017, NY Times) illustrates, it’s in the obliteration of Black history –  the history of heroic participation by black soldiers in the Civil War, the history of esteemed forebears – by the neglect of graves of people who are segregated in death, as they were in life, from the ordinary privileges and services afforded whites.

Mt. Healthy’s cemetery also bears witness to this: the historic Mount Pleasant Cemetery, no longer actively receiving bodies, was a segregated cemetery.  A cemetery caretaker for the adjacent St. Mary’s Cemetery (active) says a ravine once separated the main body of the cemetery, where the white residents were buried, from the “colored” graves, set off to the east.  Two African American civil war soldiers lie buried there, but there are no markers. We know of the presence of Pvt John Alley, Company B, 12th U.S. Colored Infantry, and Corporal Andrew Evans, Company B., 27th U.S. Colored Infantry, thanks to the Works Public Administration’s (WPA) compilation of records in the 1930s. There are no grave stones.

No less a personage than Jesse D. Locker (1891-1955) lies buried in that section too. His grave bears a grander stone that declares the stature of the six-term Cincinnati City Councilman, the first African American to be elected to that city council and finally President of Council. Locker also served as President of the Hamilton County Bar Association for Negro Lawyers. He was appointed by Dwight Eisenhower as Ambassador to Liberia in 1953, and when he died unexpectedly in 1955 he was the first and only person to lie in state at Cincinnati City Hall. His funeral was the largest in Cincinnati history up to that time.

The record of downpayment for the purchase of six grave sites by Mrs. Locker in 1939 survives, but maps and documents of others buried there seems to have been lost.

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