Remembering Baltimore's Laurel CemeteryPublished Thursday, September 26th, 2019
Coppin anthropologist and professor, Dr. Elgin Klugh helped uncover a once popular burial site for Baltimore’s African American population that is now a popular shopping center.
How did the Laurel Cemetery project come about?
In 2015, University of Baltimore archaeologist Ronald Castanzo invited me to engage in a project on East Baltimore’s former Laurel Cemetery. Together, we designed the Laurel Cemetery Project as a public anthropology initiative. Dr. Isaac Shearn also collaborated in the research.
What was the purpose?
The purpose of archaeological investigation was to determine if burials remain at the site.
Were there any significant findings?
Yes. A significant finding was the extent to which such a large burial site appeared to be absent from collective memory.
How did you approach your research?
My first step was to produce a three-minute ‘mini-documentary’ entitled, “Remembering Laurel Cemetery.” I then posted the video on YouTube and linked it to relevant Baltimore Facebook groups. In the months after posting the video, Dr. Castanzo and I were contacted by various local historians, heritage organizations, descendants, and the office of a Baltimore City Councilwoman.
How was the project funded and who participated in this collaboration?
A University of Baltimore faculty research grant afforded the rental of Ground Penetrating Radar and Magnetometer equipment.
What is next for the Project?
Dr. Castanzo, Dr. Shearn, and I will continue our work with the members of the Laurel Cemetery Memorial Task Force. This Task Force has several stated goals including the erection of historical markers, the construction of a retaining wall to protect burials from erosion, and the creation of a web site and other educational materials. We will also continue our research collaboration with the Baltimore African American Historical and Genealogical Society, and we will continue to display our exhibit in venues in and around the city of Baltimore. Lastly, we plan to publish our writing about the project in scholarly venues.
Elgin Klugh (email@example.com) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Social and Political Sciences at Coppin State University. His research interests include community revitalization; African American history, life and culture; heritage; cultural landscapes; and cultural resource management.