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Fragile Grounds - Louisiana's Endangered Cemeteries

Fragile Grounds

Louisiana's Endangered Cemeteries

By Jessica H. Schexnayder & Mary H. Manhein
Series: America's Third Coast Series

Hardcover : 9781496814326, 160 pages, 252 color illustrations, September 2017

A visual treasury of disappearing cemeteries and a call to preserve and document them


Recipient of a 2018 Preserve Louisiana Award and a 2018 Coastal Stewardship Award

Fragile Grounds compiles stories and photographs of endangered cemeteries throughout Louisiana's coastal zone and beyond. These burial places link the fragile land to the frailty of the state's threatened community structures. The book highlights the state's vibrant diversity by showing its unique burial customs and traditions, while it also identifies the urgent need for ongoing documentation of cultural elements at risk.

Cemeteries associated with the culturally rich communities of Louisiana reflect the history and global settlement patterns of the state. Yet many are endangered due to recurring natural and man-made events. Nearly 80 percent of the nation's coastal land loss occurs in Louisiana. Coastal erosion, sinking land, flooding, storm surge, and sea-level rise have led to an inland migration that threatens to unravel the fabric of Louisiana and, by association, hastens the demise of its burial places.

As people are forced inland, migrants abandon, neglect, or often overlook cemeteries as part of the cultural landscape. In terms of erosion, when the land goes, the cemetery goes with it. Cemeteries fall prey to inland and coastal flooding. As cities grow outward, urban sprawl takes over the landscape. Cemeteries lose out to forces such as expansion, eminent domain, and urban neglect. Not only do cemeteries give comfort for the living, but they also serve as a vital link to the past. Once lost, that past cannot be recovered.


"Fragile Grounds is a work of groundbreaking research that places the state’s cemeteries in a new perspective as climate change and population shifts threaten the most vulnerable of our cultural resources."

- Charles J. Pellegrin, Northwestern State University, Louisiana History

"Louisiana's coast line is disappearing at an astonishing rate, and while the economic and political toll this is taking and will take on the living is often discussed, its implications for the dead are not even an afterthought. Here, the authors give us pause to think about coastal erosion's ramifications on historic cemeteries in the area. Fragile Grounds is timely, on target, and unique."

- Marc R. Matrana, author of Lost Plantation: The Rise and Fall of Seven Oaks and Lost Plantations of the South