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Woodland Cemetery Historic Preservation

Community Engagement

This project values community engagement in all aspects of its work. Collaboration and partnership with the African American communities surrounding Clemson University is especially important, but we also recognize the need to engage with all communities tied to the university. Community leaders from the four local areas surrounding Clemson—Anderson, Clemson-Central, Pendleton, and Oconee County—advise on local research, community outreach, and preservation and memorialization plans for the African American Burial Ground. Only through direct work with churches, museums, community leaders, and others will we have a truly collaborative project. Read more about community engagement on our project blog and sign up for our monthly newsletter.

View of white flags showing placement of unmarked graves in Woodland cemetery

Community Engagement Council

In 2020 the project formed a Community Engagement Council that meets regularly to provide advice and guidance on the project. The members of the council are:

Anderson

J. T. Boseman

Jack Henderson

Nekaun Swinger

Dr. Beatrice Thompson

Clemson-Central

Rosa Grayden

Dalphene Jameson

Pastor Zackary Johnson

Oconee County

Shelby Henderson

Kathy Jenkins

Helen Rosemond-Saunders

Pendleton

Terence Hassan

Our Communities

A collage of photos from community and student events about Clemson history and the cemetery.

This project will work with the multiple diverse communities at Clemson University and the surrounding cities and counties in order to have a comprehensive and community-engaged project. We take a broad and inclusive approach to community engagement that recognizes the need to communicate with descendants of the known and recently recovered burials in Woodland Cemetery. We are cognizant of the many histories and publics tied to the University. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and administrators at the University contribute to various aspects of our project and provide input at our events. Several Clemson students and staff have been trained as cemetery tour guides or offered to host programs to engage the public with our work. The project invites local K-12 students and teachers to think about how this space reflects local history. State, local, and national government officials also have an interest in the success of this project and what it can share about South Carolina’s history. Those who cannot visit the space but have an interest in historic cemeteries will also benefit from learning about the histories we uncover and the policies we adopt. Lastly, residents of Clemson, Central, Seneca, Anderson, and Pendleton are essential for helping us uncover local histories that they know, but have not yet been documented. We engage with the broader community through projects like our arts group, community conversations, and volunteer research program. If you would like to get involved with the project reach out to us at afamburials@clemson.edu.

Restorative Justice

Community engagement in this project is tied to restorative justice. This means that the relationship with the community is multidirectional. In one direction, the community aids us in deciding what we plan to do with the cemetery and how we will commemorate the unknown burials. In the other, the community engagement team works to assist the local descendant communities on projects that uplift the communities and address persistent inequalities. In October 2021 Clemson University students helped beautify the community garden at the Blue Ridge Community Center, the former African American high school in Seneca, SC, which is now an important community center for the whole city. We are also sponsoring workshops about researching genealogy and empowering Black entrepreneurs. We look forward to working with other non-profits and community centers around the area on projects that promote and preserve important Black history, culture, and success in the Upstate.

View of white flags showing placement of unmarked graves in Woodland cemetery

Upcoming Events

Events on Campus

Explore the Clemson calendar for upcoming events related to Woodland Cemetery and the African American Burial Ground.

    Events in Local Communities

    Explore events happening in surrounding communities sponsored by our community partners.

    Cemetery Tours

    One of our most popular community engagement activities are free cemetery tours. These one-hour guided tours introduce the history of Cemetery Hill and the research we have uncovered to date. Because the research team is constantly uncovering new stories, taking the tour again means learning new things. Check out our upcoming events for available tour times and register for a tour. If you would like to become a cemetery tour guide and help us share this story please fill out our tour guide registration form. Tours are held between February and November.

    White circles signify unmarked graves underneath the pavement in Woodland Cemetery.

    “I loved the tour. I intend to encourage my students and colleagues to take the tour.”

    Tour Participant, 2021
    A group discusses a local Black history trail at a public community meeting in Seneca, South Carolina.

    Public Meetings

    Throughout the year we host a series of public meetings to update the community about the work being done on the project and to listen to community advice and input for how the project should move forward. We are excited to announce that these will be in-person public meetings. In Fall 2021 we held events in Clemson’s Nettles Park and Seneca’s Norton Thompson Park which saw excellent turnout. The more than a dozen members at each meeting heard about the latest project updates and provided their input about accessibility for the cemetery and the creation of a local Black History trail. Follow us on social media to find out about our upcoming public meetings.

    Community Events

    We have planned many events to increase community engagement with the cemetery, from partnering with the National Pan-Hellenic Council to provide cemetery tours to hosting public workshops that showcase the sources used by project staff to tell this history. We will also be facilitating multiple events that encourage people to come to the cemetery and reflect, write, sing, paint, or otherwise engage with the sounds, views, and histories of the space. Check out our upcoming events and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get updates about upcoming opportunities to engage with us.

    Volunteers gather at a tent for cemetery tours.
    Dr. James Bostic, Jr. talks to a group on a tour of the African American Burial Ground and Woodland Cemetery.

    Volunteer

    We have multiple ways for you to get involved in the cemetery project. Pease email the project Community Engagement Assistant or afamburials@clemson.edu to discuss available opportunities for involvement with research. You can also fill out our volunteer researcher application to be considered for opportunities as they arise. We are always training new cemetery tour guides and would love to have you join us. You can apply to receive a tour guide training by using the link below. Clemson students interested in contributing to the project should register for our Fall and Spring semester Creative Inquiry courses led by Dr. Sara Collini.

    The Woodland Cemetery and African American Burial Ground Historic Preservation Project
    The Woodland Cemetery and African American Burial Ground Historic Preservation Project | The cemetery is located on Woodland Drive at the intersection of Williamson Road and S. Palmetto Boulevard on the Clemson University campus. The team's offices are located in Suite 220 in Sirrine Hall.