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“G” is for Grave-site decoration

“G” is for Grave-site decoration. Grave-site decorations in many of South Carolina’s African American cemeteries originate from African traditions. West Africans transported to South Carolina as enslaved persons had their own belief system regarding death, burial and the power of the living and the dead. Care and preparation of the grave site was seen as an obligatory respectful veneration to the dead as well as a precaution for the living. Shiny or reflective materials, medicine bottles, dishes and eating utensils, and kerosene lanterns or lamps all had some significance. Messages written in bold, bright colors placed on or around the grave were considered very potent protective forces. Seashells, very often seen on West African burial sites, were widely utilized on South Carolina’s coastal burial sites, and often outlined the grave in a variety of patterns.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.