On Sunday, February 28, 2021, tours of the African American Burial Ground in Woodland Cemetery were conducted as part of Clemson’s calendar of events for Black History Month sponsored by the Harvey and Lucinda Gantt Multicultural Center. The tours were organized by Dr. Rhondda Thomas, the Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature, Faculty Director for Call My Name, and Research and Community Engagement Coordinator for the African American Burial Ground project. Over one hundred students, faculty, university employees, and community members participated in the hour-long walking tours throughout the day.
The tour, written by Dr. La’Neice Littleton, included four main stops throughout the cemetery. The guides were members of the project team, Clemson Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA), and Call My Name Student Advisory Board (CMNSAB), and hosts who led groups around the site were Clemson students, particularly members of the BGSA and CMNSAB. The first stop brought visitors to the entrance of Woodland Cemetery, near the South Carolina Historical Marker for The Fort Hill Slave and Convict Burial Ground and Woodland Cemetery that was recently installed due to the efforts of Dr. Thomas and Dr. James Bostic Jr., in addition to other Clemson faculty and staff. At this stop, visitors also learned about the history of the Native American and African American presence on the land.
The second stop on the tour was the fenced-in area of the burial ground in the southern part of the cemetery, previously thought to be the extent of the African American Burial Ground. In February 2020, after taking a Call My Name tour, two Clemson students reached out to Dr. Thomas about their concern for this site, which was neglected and uncared for at the time.
Visitors then walked toward the western part of the cemetery, where they learned more about the history of the project, including the pivotal work of African American archaeologist Carrel Cowan-Ricks in the early 1990s, the history of the Bottoms neighborhood, and the recovery of 667 unmarked graves by ground-penetrating-radar (GPR) in 2020 and 2021.
The last stop on the tour brought guests to the crest of the hill where the Calhoun family is buried, the first known white people to be buried at the site. Twelve unmarked burials were recently recovered in the Calhoun plot.
There will be more tours of the African American Burial Ground in Woodland Cemetery scheduled in the future. Check the cemetery website for more information on tours in the coming months and for updates on ongoing research and community initiatives.
If you or others know of someone who might be buried in the African American Burial Ground, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (864) 656-8855.
Return to the Woodland Cemetery website.