Story+ 2021 | Geer Cemetery: African American Labor, Dignity, & Practices of Freedom

Story+ 2021 | Geer Cemetery: African American Labor, Dignity, & Practices of Freedom

Learn more about Story+:

Durham’s Geer Cemetery, just two miles from Duke’s East Campus, was founded in 1877 by African Americans who were born enslaved. In active use for over 60 years, it became the burial place of Black people who built this city and many of its most important institutions, but also a place of institutional neglect and indignity inflicted upon the dead and their descendants. It stands as an example of the broader “preservation crisis” for African American cemeteries nationwide. A diverse, community-based group of volunteers called the Friends of Geer Cemetery is working to reclaim the cemetery, addressing its physical state as well as its buried histories.

For six weeks, this team worked to explore the history of Geer Cemetery, which was the first public non-denominational cemetery for African Americans in Durham. However, even as a public cemetery, Geer Cemetery did not enjoy public funding while it was an active cemetery. Together, the team sought to explore these questions and more as they supported each other in developing their projects. Their curiosity, analytical skills, and creativity came to the forefront as they worked to develop their projects over the six-week period. Each researcher has given a brief overview of their project in our video. To explore their projects in more depth, please click the links below:

-Nyrobi Manuel:

-Kerry Rork:

-Huiyin Zhou:

Story+ is a 6-week summer research experience for Duke undergraduates interested in exploring humanities research approaches (archival research, oral histories, narrative analysis, visual analysis, and more). The program combines research with an emphasis on storytelling for different public audiences. In Story+, students are organized into small project teams and have the opportunity to participate in a flexible mini “curriculum” on research methods and storytelling strategies. Team projects may be led by Duke faculty, Duke librarians, or non-profit organizations, and will be supervised on a day-to-day basis by graduate student mentors.