To date, I have spent over ten years researching autonomous African/African American burial grounds across the United States. These spaces speak to the importance of the Black experience where the written record is absence. These spaces preserve important Africanisms thought lost to slavery.
As a Death Scholar, an expert in the African American deathways and death work, I research deathscapes at the intersection of the Black experience intending to learn about Black life in America. Due to the dehumanization of slavery, it was the death that humanized African Americans allowing me to fill out kinship patterns, understand how our ancestors resisted separate-but-equal burial grounds, established citizenry, built communities and become land owners.
My research started with the study of Mount Auburn Cemetery, Baltimore's oldest African American burial ground founded in 1807. This means meticulously going through volumess of land deeds and burial plots, reams of meeting minutes and financial records, scores of newspaper articles, maps, plats. I uncovered how late 18th and 19th century African Americans used death as a vehicle to resist the instition of slavery, start and sustain benevolent organizations where they could pool their money to have a proper burial.
Another area of research is 19th and 20th century undertakers in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern regions in the United States. Following the records, I write about how death work was a not only a lucrative trade but it created generational Black wealth for sextons and undertakers in the name of the mid-20th century Black funeral home.
My research expands to include contemporary mourning rituals and last rites ceremonies. I write about how R.I.P. T-shirts, as death material culture, is used to unify the wearers in grief by signaling to the public they are in mourning in. I write about how as mourning wear, R.I.P. T-shirts are living memorials and are an important part of the expressive culture so present within African American mourning customs where the truth of Black life is spoken and calling to action against unnatural deathways.
I serve as Historical Plantation Consultant and Humanities Advisor to southern plantations and burial ground projects. I work with non profit and state governments to aid in helping the public understand the significance of the spaces where enslaved, freed, and indentured were buried in the colonial and antebellum eras.
In 2018, I co-founded the Collective for Radical Death Studies, a 501c3 non-profit, whose mission is to decolonize the field of Death Studies and radicalize death work practices.
I love teaching! Essential to my pedagogy is creating a shared learning envioronment anchored by social and cultural history. I challenge my students to engage with America's hisory at the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, class and ethnicity.
Morgan State University
Ph.D. in History
Major areas: African American History, Death and Cemeteries, Race and Gender Studies
Minor areas: African Diaspora, U.S. 20th century
Dissertation: “The City of the Dead for Colored People: Baltimore’s Mount Auburn Cemetery, 1807-2012”
Associate Professor of American & African American History
African American History I & II
African Americans and the Great Migration
African American Deathways & Death Work
Rise and Fall of American Slavery
U.S. History Since 1865
U.S. Social History
History of Race and Ethnicity in U.S.
Cities of the Dead: Life & Memory in the Cemetery
Women & Society
I currently hold serveral leadership positions in my field and areas of expertise
Organization of American Historians Sub-Committee on the Status of African American, Latino/a, Asian, and Native American Historians (ALANA), 2021-present
National Council for Public History Sub-Committee on Curriculum and Training
International Editorial Board – Mortality
Founding Co-Chair of PA chapter of American Gravestone Studies