Pierce Chapel African Cemetery: One of the Nation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

Preserve. Educate. Inspire.

May 9, 2023
Contact: info@hamiltonhood.org

Pierce Chapel African Cemetery
Named One of the Nation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has named Pierce Chapel African Cemetery to its prestigious 2023 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. The cemetery, located in Harris County, Georgia is one of the oldest burial grounds for Africans enslaved at several plantations and their descendants. Its recognition highlights the significance of this historic cultural resource and the urgent need for its preservation.

Pierce Chapel African Cemetery, established circa 1828, reflects a cultural heritage landscape of tribute and memory, offering a glimpse of inherited West African cultural traditions according to Archaeological evidence. The site is estimated to contain up to 500 burials in two acres of land, However, despite the area’s sanctity and its historic and cultural importance the cemetery has deteriorated over time and suffered damage linked to the use of heavy utility construction equipment. This damage includes tree removal and road grading through the cemetery that disrupted burial sites, markers, and artifacts, and even exposed some remains and impacted the cemetery’s drainage system, all adding to its ongoing deterioration.

The descendant-led Hamilton Hood Foundation is leading efforts to raise awareness about this significant place and preserve Pierce Chapel and its stories for future generations. The site requires immediate action and attention. The Hamilton Hood Foundation, started by a descendant of those interred at Pierce Chapel African Cemetery and led by a descendant leadership council and advisory board, has been working in cooperation with the landowner to preserve and commemorate this sacred place. This work includes community volunteer efforts to haul away trash and debris, regular mowing, genealogical and historical research, commissioning archaeology studies, and working with the utility companies Georgia Power and Mediacom to remove power and broadband cable lines that ran through the site. Now that the utility lines have been removed, the Foundation asks Georgia Power and Mediacom to address the harm done to the cemetery and the history that was erased.

According to Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “The descendant-led work to recover, protect, and commemorate the cemetery offers an opportunity for an entire community from neighbors to landowners to public companies, to restore this place and highlight the critical importance of preserving and interpreting African American burial grounds across the country.”

Yamona Pierce, the founder of the Hamilton Hood Foundation, expressed gratitude to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for nominating Pierce Chapel African Cemetery to the “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places 2023 List.” Pierce said that the Foundation hopes this recognition will bring awareness to the importance of preserving and restoring this significant site, which serves as a place of remembrance, connecting descendants and the local community to their recent past. The cemetery’s landscape showcases the art, tradition, culture, and historical journeys of a community whose sacrifices and contributions were integral to the development of our nation. Pierce also emphasized the Foundation’s commitment to honoring the perseverance of those who are buried there so that future generations can discover the stories of our nation’s past and honor the lives of those buried there. The Hamilton Hood Foundation is thankful for the recognition, and the Foundation pledges to continue its efforts to preserve and commemorate the cemetery so that its stories are not lost in history.

The Hamilton Hood Foundation, a not-for-profit established by the descendants of Jane Hamilton and Owen Hood, both interred at Pierce Chapel African, focuses on restoring and preserving the history and landscape of Pierce Chapel African Cemetery in a manner that celebrates and honors the history and sacrifices of the people and communities reflected at this cemetery. https://www.hamiltonhood.org.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. www.savingplaces.org.

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