Courtland Cemetery

Courtland Cemetery

North of Van Buren and Madison Street Intersection

The Courtland Cemetery reveals how deep segregation ran in America. Even after death, Jim Crow law was upheld. Evidence on the landscape includes built features like a chain-link fence separating white and Black burials.

This site was set aside as a burial ground by the Courtland Land Company when the rest of town was surveyed and plotted in 1819. Some of the area's earliest white residents are buried here. Three Union soldiers were also buried here following a skirmish at a nearby railroad trestle in 1863.


It was not until after the Civil War and Emancipation that the area east of the cemetery was set aside for African American burials. Prior to this, enslaved African Americans most likely would have been buried in unmarked graves of slave cemeteries on the plantations of their enslavers.

It was all too common during the Jim Crow period for cemeteries to be segregated like this one. Until the 1950s, about 90% of public cemeteries in the United States were racially segregated in some way.


In Courtland, the two sections are still separated by a chain link fence.