Slave Burial Grounds presented by RRAAM at RPCC

Darian Graivshark
Darryl Hambrick, Co-Founder of River Road African American Museum, speaking about the slave burials before the film screening.

When Shell of Convent considered expanding their plant, two unmarked slave cemeteries were discovered.

On February 15, Darryl Hambrick and Todd Sterling hosted a Slave Burial film screening at River Parishes Community College.

"About 1,500 graves were discovered by Shell while they were looking into expanding," Hambrick said. "Many of the chemical plants today do, or have, resided on what were once plantations."

"Archeologists came in to evaluate the land while Shell was looking to expand, and they discovered these unmarked cemeteries and burials," Todd Sterling, producer of the film, said. "One was on a cane field, and another was on the cane field, but underneath a tree. Ultimately, we decided to mark these cemeteries off with bollards, and they are now historical landmarks."

When these slave burials were discovered about five years ago, people reached out to the River Road African American Museum in Donaldsonville, La., and they started a coalition. It is called River Road African Burial Grounds Coalition.

What first began on a state level went to the federal level in the House, where these cemeteries are now protected and cannot be changed in any way.

"It is amazing what can happen, and what can be, when corporations and the community comes together," Sterling said.

One slave descendant's name is A.P. Tureaud, Jr. who is related to Ingrid Palmquist. Palmquist met Tureaud through Kathe Hambrick when visiting RRAAM. Kathe uncovered that Palmquist had ancestors who had enslaved people, and helped her look more closely at the history.

"It came to be that Tureaud is a cousin because my great-great-great-grandfather had, unfortunately, made another woman's body not her own while she was a slave," Palmquist said.

"Ingrid's children discovered a whole new history that they knew nothing about during this journey," Tureaud said. "It was an adventure for them into a whole new culture. They learned about it openly, though."

Before the RRAAM, there were little, if any, forms of preservation and information on African American History, and to have such a big impact on these unmarked cemeteries really made a difference.

The cemeteries are better known as the Monroe Cemetery and Bruslie Cemetery.

Follow Darian on Twitter @dariangshark.