Louisiana's Endangered Cemeteries
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.
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