Friday, December 30, 2016

Big Joe Williams RIP

Chicago Tribune, Aug 21, 1968.

The Times, Dec 19, 1982.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Siloam Rosenwald School and Biddleville Cemetery in Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission is seeking help to preserve a historic school for black children, including the possibility of having it moved from a lot near UNC-Charlotte where it was built in the 1920s.

Dan Morrill, of the landmarks commission, says the Siloam Rosenwald School on John Adams Road is “highly endangered” due to deterioration. This happened despite being designated a historic landmark in 2006, he said.

The property is owned by the Tribute Companies, which has reportedly asked the landmarks commission to help find someone to take the building for preservation. It was built on the site as part of a 20th-century project to educate African-American children throughout the South. The current structure replaced an old log cabin, historians say.

“Unless something is done soon, the Siloam Rosenwald School will be beyond repair,” Morrill said in a statement.

“Rough estimates suggest that to restore the school will cost $150,000. Moving it elsewhere would require an additional $50,000. The fate of the building rests first with Tribute Companies. They own it.”

In March 2008, the owner received approval for plans to restore the school but did not move forward with the project. “Indeed, the Siloam School has not received any improvements and is deteriorating rapidly,” Morrill said.

He’d like to see the building used for classes that would make the community more aware of its African-American heritage. “There are many options. As in most cases, however, the issue comes down to money and setting priorities. Perhaps the only solution is to let the Siloam Rosenwald School crumble and go away,” Morrill said in a statement.

Rosenwald Schools were named for Julius Rosenwald, the head of Sears Roebuck & Co. Rosenwald joined with Booker T. Washington of Tuskeegee Institute to build new school buildings for African-Americans throughout the South.

The Siloam Rosenwald School harkens back to a day when Mecklenburg County was overwhelmingly rural. It sits on its original site, which is now located at the entrance to an apartment complex owned by Tribute Companies. The Historic Landmarks Commission did examine the building in 2013 and found that the structure was capable of being moved, Morrill said.

Charlotte City Council voted last week to offer historic landmark protections for another important African-American site, the old Biddleville Cemetery, founded in 1873.

Biddleville Cemetery is considered vital on several counts: It wasn’t a slave cemetery, but was instead a rare neighborhood cemetery for free blacks. It’s also the resting place of some of the city’s most notable black citizens, including veterans of the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

"No Vacancy?": Filling Up the Cemeteries

Development pushes up against Williamsville Cemetery, off Orange Centre Drive near U.S. Route 23 in Orange Township. The graveyard is closed to new burials. 

Cemeteries have only so much space. And yet with an endless supply of new customers, they rarely have to put up "no vacancy" signs.

Last week, tiny Williamsville Cemetery in Orange Township essentially did that, declaring that it was suspending new burials because the grounds had reached their useful capacity.

"It's an old, aged cemetery," said Lee Bodnar, Orange Township's administrator. "When it was originally laid out, the plots were significantly smaller than are required today, and because of its age, we were concerned about disrupting an existing grave."

Few have requested burial there in recent years, said Bodnar. The township's Africa Cemetery has ample future capacity for those who do.

But the burial stoppage underscores a growing concern: the aging population and limited land use.

"Eventually, all cemeteries will have to consider this," said Scott Harmon, president of the Ohio Cemetery Association. "It's going to be an obstacle that each township will have to explore."

Operators treat cemetery grounds much like miniature housing developments, with engineering, landscape design and master plans, said Harmon, who operates Dover Cemetery in Tuscarawas County.

Pre-purchased burial plots and the uncertain timing of death can create planning challenges, said Harmon, who said he has not heard of many cemeteries closing people out. The Dover Cemetery should have capacity for at least another 100 years.

The Ohio Department of Commerce keeps a registry of Ohio's 4,000 public and private cemeteries, but it doesn't track when they reach capacity or have to turn away business, said spokeswoman Lindsey Burnworth.

A national expert said cemeteries were built long ago, driven by supply and demand, to be near people and to serve them for generations.

"They're the only business that has to service what they sell forever," said Robert Fells, executive director and general counsel of the Virginia-based International Cemetery Cremation and Funeral Association, a national trade association. Most have endowment care accounts composed of a percentage of revenue that must go toward perpetual maintenance.

When cemeteries become landlocked, as often happens in urban areas, "we call them dormant cemeteries, when they run out of spaces," Fells said. But many in rural areas "have so much acreage, that even 200 years from now they will not have used it all," he said.

The rise of cremation has taken some of the pressure off cemetery land, Fells said.

"The cremation rate is nationally about 50 percent," he said. "That alone has extended the useful life of many cemeteries."

Funeral directors point to options other than burial, including columbaria that store ashes, said Melissa Sullivan, executive director of the Ohio Funeral Directors Association. Cemeteries, she said, likely will have to expand into less-developed areas eventually.

"Are you having to move further out? Probably," she said. "But we still have quite a bit of ground, and we're having more and more choices."

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Secret Life of Our Dying Cemeteries

It’s easy to forget that cemeteries were made for the living. Where first we may come in sorrow, seeking consolation, we often return again and again for something else.

We discover that places of eternal rest have many moods and designs — the moneyed hush of Oak Hill in Georgetown, the canine frolic of Congressional near Capitol Hill, the fields of infinite sacrifice at Arlington — yet in whichever idiosyncratic refuge we linger awhile, we sense the dead watching and taking our measure as well, keeping us company as much as we keep them.

“I just came to say ‘Hi’ to my dad,” says Christina Incognito, 53, eating a picnic salad with her son, Tyler, 20, on a blanket spread over the Arlington National Cemetery grave of Robert Eugene Bornsheuer, senior master sergeant, U.S. Air Force (May 21, 1927-April 5, 2012).

They drive down often from suburban Maryland to happily reminisce about the departed veteran. Incognito is awed by the crisp beauty of the ranks of white stones that seem paused in a timeless march.

“It gives me hope,” she says. “That there’s still kindness, that people take care of people who are not here.”

Hope is a concept that Romantics, Victorians and plutocrats brought to cemetery design in the 19th century. Before then, urban burial grounds were dismal, overcrowded labyrinths wedged into churchyards, scarcely meeting the minimum requirements of either municipal sanitation or reverent remembrance. Carved stone skulls and images of stalking Death adorned the tombs like dire warnings.

Romantic designers with Victorian taste and plutocratic capital launched the movement toward so-called garden cemeteries or rural cemeteries within the city. Monuments and mausoleums were set along curving paths within picturesque landscapes, the more topography the better. Stones were decorated with cherubs and angels and hopeful messages of gone-but-not-forgotten.

These green oases — places like Oak Hill, Mount Olivet and Rock Creek cemeteries — became the first large-scale parks of great American cities, places to stroll and court and relax, before actual parks came along, inspired in part by the restorative and aesthetic possibilities of cemeteries.

The absence of the dead is a park’s loss, and their presence is our gain as we hike to the summit of Mount Olivet on Bladensburg Road NE, where the stone cross of the Dominican Fathers and the graves and vaults of bishops and parishioners insist on an existence no less solid and perpetual than the one embodied by the Capitol dome visible across the urban valley from here.

The writing on tombs — names, dates, messages — is like the information cards next to paintings in a museum. We might begin our visit reading every one; then inevitably we start skipping. In a cemetery, some messages draw us in and get us thinking about people we never knew, such as Thomas Evans, “a native of England,” who died in 1884 at the age of 58, according to his monument in Oak Hill. The inscription asserts: “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”

Does Thomas Evans still live in anyone’s heart? Unclear. But at least for a fleeting moment he is on our minds.

At Arlington National Cemetery, about 400,000 people from the
United States and 11 other countries are buried. 
(Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)

Beneath a sheltering oak in Rock Creek Cemetery (which is nowhere near Rock Creek), three generations of Nairn women are sprucing up the family plot established by Joseph W. Nairn, who died May 27, 1875. He owned a drugstore downtown and lived on H Street NW. Later, a family farm became part of Wheaton Regional Park. A column topped by a stone urn carries the names and dates of ancestors, surrounded by the graves of several Nairns.

To the women, the monument is like a book, each name a chapter. It gives them a sense of who they are, especially now that family members have scattered across the country.

“No one lives here anymore, but the memories are here,” says Holly Simmons, 28, a graduate student at the University of Maryland. Her grandfather, William W. Nairn III, a career Army officer, was buried in the family plot in 2013. Now there is room for only one more Nairn.

Janice L. Nairn, 85, widow of William, seems untroubled to stake that claim. In fact, she has made arrangements. “I’ll be back,” she says in a chipper voice, standing over a stone that carries her name and date of birth. Just one piece of data is yet to be chiseled.

By the late 1980s, there was widespread national concern that cemeteries were moribund. People stopped visiting. It’s not that cremation rates have now reached a record high of 49 percent. Ashes can still be buried, or visited in the cemetery’s columbarium, which can feel like paying respects before a library card catalogue.

Modern families have just become too transient, unsentimental, agnostic and forgetful to spend much time in graveyards.

“Once the families stop visiting, the personal touch, the scrubbed look, and the feeling of human presence are gone, and the ordinary cemeteries ‘lose their soul,’ ” Kenneth T. Jackson and Camilo José Vergara wrote in “Silent Cities: The Evolution of the American Cemetery.”

“Many dozens” of cemeteries have been lost or removed from the District over the centuries, leaving 22 today, according to a report by Anne O. Brockett, architectural historian in the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. Some that survive are fading, with headstones becoming illegible or broken, and vegetation encroaching.

Still, evidence of the ravages of time, a touch of the ramshackle, add drama to a cemetery and richness to our musings. At the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery, magnificent trees have grown up to disrupt the chalky ranks of markers. The trunk of a tulip poplar has ingested two graves so that the edges of the stones jut out from the bark on either side like hip bones. Life goes on.

A sculpture at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Mount Olivet is maintained by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and was one of the first in the city to be racially integrated. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)
To survive, a cemetery needs a gimmick. The little graveyard at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Rockville found one when it accepted the remains of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. The writer — whose full name suggests his Maryland roots: Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald — originally was denied burial there in 1940 among other Fitzgeralds and Scotts because he had not gone to confession and taken communion regularly. Three decades later, church officials relented, and the graves were relocated from Rockville Cemetery.

Now admirers and necrotourists make their way here, where they take selfies before the gravestone etched with the last line of “The Great Gatsby,” perfect for a cemetery:

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Congressional Cemetery was in decline in the 1990s when neighbors and cemetery leaders began transforming it into a community crossroads like no other cemetery in the city. Residents chipped in money to cut the grass. The cemetery welcomed dog owners to unleash their animals to chase and romp amid the tombstones. Now there are 770 canines registered for an annual fee, plus a wait list of more than a year, while other owners pay a daily rate. The cemetery hosts weddings, bar mitzvahs, a yoga group, a book club (Tombs and Tomes), chamber music (Notes From the Crypt) and a Twitter feed (@CongCemetery), and the gift store is stocked with jars of honey harvested from beehives on the grounds.

The cemetery has about 1,000 plots left. It sells 30 to 40 a year for $4,000 to $8,800. After they’re gone, then what? Already most of the graves have no contact from descendants.

“We needed people to care,” says Margaret Puglisi, vice president of the Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery. “This is a living space.”

The dead and the pre-dead are in on the crusade to save Congressional and other cemeteries. They are adding personality, which is to say life, to their tombs, turning cemeteries into community bulletin boards, etched with battle cries, résumés, sports teams, jokes.

“When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

“Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”

“Templeton Prize.”

“Sweet to the Core.”

“At Home with the Dogs.”

“First African-American Rhodes Scholar.”

“Come sit awhile.”

Athena Ullrich visits the graves of her parents at Arlington National Cemetery. Ullrich's father was a private in the U.S. Army during World War II. For his service he received a purple heart. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post) 

In the end, cemeteries give us what we’re looking for, but we’re looking for different things.

Veterans Day finds us back at Arlington. It is at least three cemeteries in one. It has a superficial identity as a tourist attraction, where death is spun into a national epic. It is also the resting place of veterans such as Christina Incognito’s father who went on to live full lives.

And it contains tragic groves like Section 60, where those who served the missions in Afghanistan and Iraq are buried, men and women who scarcely saw their 20s. Here the grief is particularly raw.

Jennifer Williamson crouches by the grave of Marine 1st Lt. Mark Steven Williamson (March 28, 1986-May 4, 2011).

“This is my brother,” she says. She visits as often as she can, all the way from Massachusetts, because “going to Arlington is a reminder that all of us are part of something larger than ourselves.” She also comes to thank her brother, she adds later in an email, “however strange that may seem. ... His ending sparked a revolution in my heart, and ... also opened my eyes to the beauty that was still left, and that I could contribute. I want to make the most of this life, to honor my brother and to honor myself.”

A couple of rows away, Yumiko Southard spreads a blanket on the grave of her son, Senior Airman Julian Seiji Scholten (Oct. 17, 1985-Feb. 18, 2012). He helped pioneer a new field of airborne intelligence and was on his third tour when the plane he was in crashed. The Air Force named an award for commando of the year after him.

His mother always sets out excited from Virginia’s Hampton Roads region at the prospect of a visit, accompanied by her husband. Penetrating the tourist throngs is surreal, then a familiar heaviness descends.

She lights a candle, places a picture of the young man, lays out sushi — his favorite food — and a bottle of Coors Light, his beer. On cold days, she might bring something warm in which to wrap the white stone.

“He is in here,” she says, indicating the grave, and she wants him to understand that “Here’s Mom, and I’m here to come see you.”

She gave birth to six children, and when someone asks how many she has, she still says six.

As the sun sets, she packs the sushi and beer and pushes herself to her feet. She kisses her fingers and rubs them on the top of the stone. Her fingers linger, flesh on marble, a moment of contact filled with one last feeling that we sometimes have in a cemetery, when the air goes out of these majestic spaces and they are reduced to their essence — the fulfillment of a timeless exchange between the living and the dead.

The mother passes through the gates of the cemetery, reflecting on her already well-lived life, and says, “I would take his place.”

Author: David Montgomery is a staff writer for the Washington Post. To comment on this story, email or visit

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Fiddler named Joost Went Down to Martense Lane--not Georgia???

In Martense Lane: Joost Beat the Devil Fiddling 

Long before the borough of Brooklyn swelled beyond the limits of Greenwood Cemetery, a noticeably indented stone sat as testament to this truth of this story about the Devil and Martense Lane. A black fiddle player named Joost, who had played for a wedding that evening, was walking home on Saturday night, his fiddle under his arm. He had drunk enough schnapps that he started seeing stars on the ground and fences in the sky. He felt very dizzy so he seated himself rather heavily on this rock to think about it. The behavior of the stars in swimming and rolling struck him as especially curious, and he conceived the notion that they wanted to dance. Putting his fiddle to his chin, he began a wild jig, and though he made it up as he went along, he was conscious of doing finely, when the boom of a bell sent a shiver down his spine. It was twelve o'clock, and here he was playing a dance tune on Sunday. However, the sin of playing for one second on the Sabbath was as great as that of playing all day; so, as long as he was in for it, he resolved to carry the tune to the end, and he fiddled away with a reckless vehemence. Presently he became aware that the music was both wilder and sweeter than before, and that there was more of it. Not until then did he observe that a tall, thin stranger stood beside him; and that he was fiddling too,—composing a second to Joost's air, as if he could read his thought before he put it into execution on the strings. Joost paused, and the stranger did likewise."Where did you come from?" asked the first. The other smiled.

"And how did you come to know that music?" Joost pursued.

"Oh, I've known that tune for years," was the reply. "It's called 'The Devil's joy at Sabbath Breaking.'"

"You're a liar!" cried Joost. The stranger bowed and burst into a roar of laughter. "A liar!" repeated Joost,—"for I made up dat music dis very minute."

"Yet you notice that I could follow when you played."

"Humph! Yes, you can follow."

"And I can lead, too. Do you know the tune 'Go to the Devil and Shake Yourself?'"

"Yes; but I play second to nobody."

"Very well, I'll beat you at any air you try."
"Done!" said Joost. And then began a contest that lasted until daybreak. The stranger was an expert, but Joost seemed to be inspired, and just as the sun appeared he sounded, in broad and solemn harmonies, the hymn of Von Catts:

"Now behold, at dawn of day, Pious Dutchmen sing and pray."

At that the stranger exclaimed, "Well, that beats the devil!" and striking his foot angrily on the rock, disappeared in a flash of fire like a burst bomb. Joost was hurled twenty feet by the explosion, and lay on the ground insensible until a herdsman found him some hours later. As he suffered no harm from the contest and became a better fiddler than ever, it is supposed that the recording angel did not inscribe his feat of Sabbath breaking against him in large letters. There were a few who doubted his story, but they had nothing more to say when he showed them the hoof-mark on the rock.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec 25, 1881.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec 25, 1881.

The Osage City Free Press, Jan 21, 1897.
The Osage City Free Press, Jan 21, 1897.

Levon Helm on the Delta Cultural Center at Helena - June 28, 1988

(making his case for one element of the Lower MS Delta Develepmont Act before the committees on Environment and Public Works and Small Business in the US Senate)

Levon Helm in early 1990s
"Mr. Chairmen, while economic progress must take place, there is no reason why this progress should so drastically change our way of life that we lose our culture, that sense of who we are. That is perhaps the most important reason that this commission should pursue projects like the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, Arkansas which would help to preserve and interpret the rich cultural heritage of the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta region. Through organized events, exhibits, and programs, this center would give the people of the Delta the sense of community that is so badly needed there as well as work to preserve the region's unique cultural aspects. I have seen the importance of doing this through my work at the Helena Blues Festival. This October will be the 3rd year that the event has taken place and I would like to take this time to invite each of you to come and join us. You could then understand what an event such as the Festival can do for the morale of the people in that area."

Helm proved a powerful force in Helena and Washington D.C.  Having come up in Marvell, the famous drummer/singer was an eager ambassador for Arkansas.  He had been the feature artist at the 1987 King Biscuit Blues Festival, which served as a major step up towards welcoming as many as 40,000 in 1988 and over 100,000 in the early nineties.  His support of the cultural center in Helena may have been the final, deciding factor in the decision of the governor in 1989.  

At the historical setting of Centennial Baptist Church, Gov. Bill Clinton recently unveiled plans for the new Arkansas Delta Cultural Center in Helena. Economists project that within 5 to 6 years the center will bring between $3 and $6.5 million into the local economy as well as create 134 new jobs in the newly-created tourism and tourism-related industries.  “It has been my vision for many years to establish a center that preserves the history and culture of the people of the Arkansas Delta,” Clinton informed, and he wanted to recognize the people who developed the region into a “land of opportunity and economic prosperity.”  In his vision, the center celebrated the “rich culture and dramatic past as well as symbolizing hope” in overcoming all the challenges “to make the Delta of tomorrow a better place.”  Clinton made the announcement at a press conference prior to the opening of-the Arkansas Public Hearing of the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission. The site of the news conference, Centennial Baptist Church, is one of a handful of existing turn-of-the-century buildings in downtown Helena. It was designed by African American  architect, Henry James Price, and built in 1905 at a cost of $30,000.

Daily Arkansas Gazette, Aug 31, 1912.
The first phase of a six-phase, $8.5 million historic preservation and cultural resource management initiative was to restore the Missouri-Pacific Railroad depot in Helena and establish a visitor’s center for researchers and tourists.  Built in 1912, the depot’s once enjoyed a bustling lobby filled with passengers, and architects planned to restore the almost eighty year-old room to look much like it did in its earliest years.  The information desk, in addition, would look like “an old depot or bank teller window,” and it would provide maps and other information about historic sites and events across the Delta.  The center was going to feature an exhibit titled: “The Arkansas Delta: A Landscape of Change,” which revealed the diverse nature of experiences in the Delta through a series of panels featuring text and photographs as well as videos, documents, and artifacts   The initial display, “River Country,” explained the difficulties of the natural environment that impeded settlement in the Delta, and it employed the use of film to show historic newsreels of floods as well as workers building a levee.  The artifacts included in “Life on the Frontier” helped demonstrate the acerbic nature of life for the early settlers.  By constructing an exhibit using farm implements, murals depicting farming methods, and footage of farming in the early half of the twentieth century, “Rural Life: Living on the Land” explained the persistent historical role of agricultural development in Mississippi.  Other panels describe the social and cultural life of Native Americans in the Arkansas Delta, explain the geographical attraction that drew large groups of immigrant’s merchants to the region, interprets the significance of the Civil War as well as the complexities of racial discourse in the New South.  Children as well as adults, moreover, have the opportunity to climb into the navigator seat of a caboose, which sits adjacent to the property.

Daily Arkansas Gazette, Sep 24, 1912.

The following phases of the project included the development of an interpretive walking tour along the Mississippi River, the procurement a few suitable buildings: 1) to establish an archive and an art gallery, 2) to setup an interpretive center and house major exhibits, and 3) to open a twenty-five room bed and breakfast.[1]   The bed and breakfast will be housed in the Missouri Pacific Railroad depot which is located near the Mississippi River levee in downtown Helena. The Union Pacific Railroad and the City of Helena were responsible for the donation of the building and grounds for the centerpiece of the project. With the renovation of the historic depot beginning in October, the architectural workers hoped to complete their work in less than a year, which might allow its grand opening to coincide with the annual King Biscuit Blues Festival.

Daily Arkansas Gazette, Apr 19, 1913.
[1] “First Phase of the DCC Set to Open This Fall,” Marianna (AR) Courier, Sep 6, 1989, p.16.

“Plans made to build Arkansas Delta Cultural Center in Helena,” Marianna (AR) Courier, Sep 14, 1989, p.11.

United States Congress Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Lower Mississippi Delta Development Act: joint hearing before the committees on Environment and Public Works and Small Business, United States Senate, One Hundredth Congress, second session, on S. 2246, a bill to establish the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission, June 28, 1988 (Washington, DC: U.S. G.P.O., 1988), 96.

Updated: Memphis Minnie memorial page


Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Grave of John William "Blind" Boone

The story of this statue as a commemoration remains untold...
Statue of "Blind" Boone in Blind Boone Park in Warrenburg, MO

The Hutchinson News, May 15, 1926.
John William Boone was born on 17 May 1864, the son of Rachel Boone. When he was six months old he developed “brain fever,” and to relieve the pressure doctors removed his eyes. Boone grew up in Warrensburg, Missouri, and displayed an early talent for music. After an unsuccessful time at the Missouri School for the Blind in St. Louis, he took to wandering, playing in the tenderloin district of St. Louis, traveling central Missouri, singing to passengers on trains, and playing in churches. Once while playing in a church, Boone attracted the attention of John Lange, a black contractor in Columbia, Missouri. Lange was to become the initial underwriter and finally the manger of the Blind Boone Company. By 1885 the Blind Boone Company was regularly booked and playing in both the large cities and small towns in the Midwest, with enthusiastic reviews from everyone. Wealth and fame was lavished on Blind Boone. By the 1920s Boone’s career was declining with the coming of the jazz age, and in 1927 Boone died of a stroke. Heavy debts scattered his estate, and he was buried in a grave that remained unmarked until the 1970s. A revival of interest in ragtime music prompted the establishment of the Blind Boone Memorial Foundation, Inc., and the subsequent acquisition of his piano, along with benefit concerts honoring his music.

Alton Evening Telegraph,Oct 5, 1927.
The benefit concerts in the early 1960s were only the first experiments in raising money for the Blind Boone Memorial Foundation.  The project lumbered on for ten years before the the sesquicentennial committee for the town of Columbia added the dedication of a headstone to its list of celebratory events planned around the anniversary of the town's founding. Though the "Blind" Blake Museum may have remained an elusive institution to local boosters, several scholarly works examine the life and career of the Missouri-born composer.   The picture at the top of this note is a statue of Boone, which sits in a park bearing his name, in the city of his death.   Some of the music venues in his hometown bear his name as well.  Some of the venues that once bore his name are gone.  His historic home in Columbia, however, sits in a state of disrepair--stabilized, yet requiring serious renovation.  The campaign to raise the funds for the full historical restoration of the blind artist's home is now ten years old....

The Pittsburgh Courier, Sep 14, 1929.

The following is a selected list of books, articles, and manuscripts about John William "Blind" Boone in the research centers of the Missouri Historical Society.

Other Articles

North Todd Gentry,  Blind Boone and John Lange, Jr.” Missouri Historical Review 34:2 (January 1940), pp. 232-234. 

“Blind Boone,” Jefferson City Daily Tribune, April 27, 1898. 
Blind Boone and His Life Story,” Columbia Tribune, July 25, 1912. p. 1, 3.
“Blind Boone Closes Forty-Fourth Season on Musical Platform,” Columbia Missourian, June 3, 1924. 


Mary Barile and Christine Montgomery, eds. Merit, Not Sympathy, Wins: The Life and Times of Blind Boone (Truman University Press, 2012.)

Jack Batterson, Blind Boone: Missouri’s Ragtime Pioneer (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1998).

Melissa Fuell, Blind Boone, His Early Life and His Achievements (Kansas City, MO: Burton Publishing Co., 1915).

Madge Harrah, Blind Boone: Piano Prodigy (Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books, 2004.)
The Sedalia Democrat, Aug 19, 1960.
The Kansas City Times, Feb 8, 1961.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

It's Starting to Look Like a Christmas Headstone Dedication

Press about the 1991 Dedication of the Robert Johnson Cenotaph

The Greenwood (MS) Commonwealth, Jan 10, 1991.
The Greenwood (MS) Commonwealth, Jan 10, 1991.
The Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, Feb 27, 1991.

The Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, Feb 27, 1991.

Upkeep of Blues Grave Costly

Here is a short, yet powerful, article that reminds us how important it is to support the church communities in which we place historical markers and headstones in honor of blues legends. It is important that we respect the unique position in which these communities find themselves--as the de-facto caretakers of immensely popular tourist sites. In honoring the dead, we sometimes disrespect the living. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Gravesites Take On A Life of Their Own???

Journalist Gary Pettus provides a horribly inaccurate title for what should be a harmless promotional article, "Gravesites" certainly do not "Take On A Life of Their Own" in Mississippi--not without some help. Cemeteries fortunate enough to have a competent sexton and maintenance trust take on the appearance that the living visitors and caretakers project and carve into the landscape. We have seen, however, so many sextons act with such negligence and cemetery maintenance trusts go bankrupt recently due to corruption and incompetence. Abandoned cemeteries and bankrupt organizations seem to be becoming the norm in Mississippi, but even they take on the appearance and alleged "life" of nature as it encroaches slowly but surely on the rows of graves.

Gary Pettus, "Gravesites Take On A Life
of Their Own," JCL, May 21, 2006.
Gravesites are kept up by dedicated individuals in rural and urban locales often for little compensation. There is no sexton for the graves of many blues musicians buried in abandoned African American cemeteries. Graves certainly do not take on a self-cleaning life of their own. Folks like Robert Mortimer in Greenville knows what I'm talking about, and Robert Birdsong has to pull the weeds and weed-eat several forlorn burial grounds around Clarksdale. It takes sweat, toil, and precious life's blood to maintain these hallowed grounds and see that these graves are kept clean. It may seem like these places "take on a life of their own," but if the headstones aren't covered in brush and tall grass and broken, good people have cleared these spaces and mended these markers so that others are free to believe in magic.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

T. DeWayne Moore --- Jack Dappa Blues Radio

On this episode of Jack Dappa Blues, Lamont Pearley interviews DeWayne Moore, director of The Mt. Zion Memorial Fund and avid researcher of African American History and Blues roots heritage.