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Higher Ground

Higher Ground: Honoring Washington Park Cemetery, Its People and Place is a digital exhibition of photographs, videos, and art exploring the history and issues of this historic African American cemetery. 

Washington Park Cemetery is located near St. Louis Lambert International Airport in the city of Berkeley, Missouri, and was established in 1920 as a burial ground for African Americans at a time when rigid segregation was common practice. For nearly 70 years, it was the largest black cemetery in the region and the final resting place for many prominent African Americans as well as lesser well-known citizens. The cemetery’s long and tragic history reveals a complicated tangle of social injustice, racial politics, imbalance of power, and dismal neglect. 

A grave site with a mother Mary statue standing as a marker. The grave has fresh flowers, but is otherwise in an overgrown location.

This exhibition is in part protest, in part tribute, and in part, historical documentation. The work offers an effort and a promise toward acknowledging the cultural and historical significance of Washington Park Cemetery, and toward honoring the people touched by decades of oversight, neglect, and disruption.

The photo displayed here (right) shows a gravesite marker photographed by Professor Jennifer Colten in her documentation of Washington Park Cemetery.

The header image shown here is a close-up of the Ashburn Maps, part of the Higher Ground Digital Exhibition depicting the Washington Park Cemetery and its vicinity before the construction of interstate highways. These maps are courtesy of the Missouri History Museum.