TX-JEWISH-L ArchivesArchiver > TX-JEWISH > 2003-04 > 1050725683
From: "Lynna Kay Shuffield " <>
Subject: [TX-JEWISH] African American Christians to be Buried in Historic Hebrew Cemetery
Date: Fri, 18 Apr 2003 23:14:46 -0500
Hempstead City Council to Vote Next week to Sale plots at
historic Jewish Cemetery to African American Christians ... Story
on Channel 11 - CBS Houston Friday Apr 18th ... They claim racism
if not allowed to bury African American Christians in Historic
Hebrew Cemetery in Hempstead ...
Please forward this to other interested individuals
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Up Close: Cemetery controversy
The dispute centers on separate and unequal burial grounds
By Doug Miller / 11 News
HEMPSTEAD -- African-American activists in Hempstead claim a
symbol of racism extends all the way to the grave. The dispute
centers on burial grounds -- separate and unequal.
As a final resting-place, Hempstead Cemetery is quiet. But it's
not quite peaceful. It began, long ago, as a burial place for
white people. "This is Mr. Lee Fowler. There's the nameplate
there," resident Pete Pendleton points out. "He was mayor of
Hempstead for quite a while here in Hempstead."
Now some African Americans around Hempstead don't like what they
Anybody strolling around the historically white cemetery sees
nicely kept graves, newly mowed grass. Running water flows from
faucets. Electricity flows from power outlets. The cemetery is
owned by Hempstead's city government and maintained by Hempstead
There is another cemetery owned by the city. It was founded as a
burial place for blacks. Unlike the white cemetery, it is not
maintained by the city government.
William White defended his country during World War II. Now the
veteran's burial ground has become a dumping ground for
trash. "Well, I'm offended," says Robin Willis. "I'm hurt to know
that this blatant discrimination is going on in the city of
Some of the graves there are well maintained, apparently by
descendants of those buried here. But others are vanishing into
So how did this come to pass? Well, decades ago a group of white
citizens got together and created a sort of endowment. They
basically paid the city of Hempstead to maintain perpetual care
on the historically white cemetery. No such endowment was created
for the black cemetery. And so now, the graves of many African-
American families are surrounded by weeds.
"The folks that's there have never come forward, brought any
money to the city and asked us to maintain 'em with," says
Hempstead city administrator James Bines. "I don't know whether
you'd call it a nest-egg or what, I don't know what you'd call
it -- but anyway, brought us their money, the monies they had in
their endowment funds."
Critics say the city could easily change the old ordinances that
keep the separate cemeteries unequal.
"And I would think that in the year 2003 that it would be a no-
brainer," says Willis. "That they would change this document and
take care of all of the cemeteries the same way."
Now the controversy has spread to another historically black
cemetery called Oakwood. Again, the only maintenance is performed
by the families and friends of the dead, people like Jesse
Wilson, who drives up here from La Porte every couple of weeks to
tend the family graves.
The big difference is that the cemetery is not owned by the city.
But to the Wilson family, that doesn't matter. "It's not fair
because I know the city workers are the one's that's cleaning up
the other cemetery," said Darryl Wilson. And they're getting paid
by tax dollars. And if they can get paid for doing that, they can
come over here and do the same thing. And we all pay taxes."
Hempstead officials argue that Oakwood is private property and
that the city has no more responsibility to maintain a private
cemetery than a private home.
But critics argue the city should take over the land because its
ownership is unclear. And somebody, they say, needs to clean out
weeds and grass.
Grass beneath which Pete Pendleton found the grave of another
World War II veteran: "Jesse Richards," he says. "This is my
father's cousin. Gone and forgotten."
All of this has brought Pendleton to Hempstead's HEBREW CEMETERY.
He wants to move the graves of his father and father-in-law into
the historically JEWISH CEMETERY resting-place, another property
now owned and maintained by the city government.
"If they would keep the ones, black ones clean, we would be
satisfied with that, since they're keeping all the other ones
clean," says Pendleton. "And it is city property as well as the
City officials say they don't have the authority to sell
Pendleton any plots in the Jewish cemetery. But a city council
vote next week might change that. "If the council votes like I
think they will, here in the very (near) future, then we'll have
those spaces," says Bines. "Mr. Pendleton can come on down and
pick out which one he wants to have his family on."
Still, the questions about city maintenance of people's graves
still linger. And a long time may pass before Hempstead's
cemetery controversy is finally laid to rest.
Pendleton says he's already sent the city of Hempstead $600 as a
deposit on two burial plots at the Hebrew cemetery.
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Lynna Kay Shuffield
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222
'Our Loose Ends' Genealogy Column by Lynna Kay Shuffield
'My Loose Ends' Family Tree Database by Lynna Kay Shuffield
Note above URL wraps around onto the next line, cut & paste it
onto the end of the first line in the 'location box' on your
'Milam County War Dead Project'
County Coordinator for the Milam County TXGenWeb
County Coordinator for the San Jacinto County TXGenWeb
|[TX-JEWISH] African American Christians to be Buried in Historic Hebrew Cemetery by "Lynna Kay Shuffield " <>|