Reclaiming the Sons of Zion graveyard

MEMPHIS, TN 

The Zion Cemetery of Memphis, TN has been in a state of disrepair for many decades – the grave markers in most cases inaccessible thru a canopy of creepers.

ZionEThe cemetery is important because it was the first African-American graveyard of the region, founded in the 1870’s by the “Sons of Zion”, who were former slaves. The property was in use until the 1970’s but quickly slid into disrepair shortly thereafter. In the 1980’s and 1990’s there were rumors of the gravestones being used as “chop shop” jack props for car thieves and as a result – this was a location that the general public would dare not venture.

ZionAAALocal activist Ken Hall of Volunteer Mid-South has been working with local volunteers to correct that for the past nine years.Currently, approximately eighty percent of the property is still covered by overgrown brush, weeds, and thorn bushes – but Mr. Hall is optimistic that one day this will change.

In the accompanying photographs, he supervises the work of 100 local teens from the non-profit Bridge Builders comprised of 50% white and 50% African-ZionGAmerican youth. Armed with machetes, mowers, and clippers, they go in search of the gravestones of the Sons of Zion by re-claiming the land for the future generations of those buried here.

Video by Neal Moore.  Photos by Ken Hall.

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4 Comments

Filed under Community Project, Mississippi River Town, On CNN

4 responses to “Reclaiming the Sons of Zion graveyard

  1. Cindy

    Dang, Neal! You are WORKING! (But like our friend Tom Sawyer, I think you’re enjoying it!)

  2. Wow Neil,
    Another diamond in the rough! I am happy to see another treasure you have rediscovered in this cemetery!
    Happy Trails!

  3. Neal,
    Our bicycle caravan is now in Louisiana and will arrive in St. Francisville on Tuesday afternoon and will also be there Wednesday before resuming the journey on Thursday. I see that you’re upriver in Oxford. Miss. When do you xpect to be in St. Francisville?
    Jim

  4. Coco Wang

    Wow, you’re really working on your plan.
    I’ve been searching about this thing cause i’ve lost the note i’ve written lol
    hmm……keep working!! i’ve got lots to tell you – let’s contact via fb!

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