Tag Archives: Tarboro GA

African-American Madonna Monuments of Camden County

Detail of Green Monument, Clinch Chapel Cemetery

I recently documented an eclectic collection of Black cemetery monuments at three locations in Camden County with Cynthia Jennings. Remarkable testaments to African-American ingenuity, they date from the 1920s to the 1940s and are all in the form of a European version of the Madonna (Mary). [I have identified them as “African-American” because of their appropriation by these historic communities].

They appear to have been made using a cast, though all have slight variations. Whether made by a local funeral home or an individual, the monuments have at least one vernacular element: the handwritten identifications of the decedents. While some appear to be distinct, it’s more likely the effect of nearly a century of exposure to the elements.

A review of active black funeral homes in Camden County in the 1930s might be a clue as to their history. Chrissy Chapman has documented these amazing memorials, as well, and has located at least one more, in a plantation cemetery, which we hope to explore after hunting season. Chrissy’s photographs, made a few years ago, reveal a possible maker’s name, which I hope to share later.

It is my hope that by preserving these places photographically, they will be of some use to historians and genealogists in the future. It seems certain that they will all be unreadable within the next decade or so but they should be added to the growing list of important African-American vernacular landmarks in Georgia and celebrated as such.

The Monuments

Grace Scarlett/Scarlott (1855-17 December 1936), Rising Daughter Missionary Baptist Church, Spring Bluff. Like the next monument pictured, this one is paired with a secondary marker, perhaps indicating that Grace Scarlott died in childbirth and the secondary marker represents her lost child. It is believed that the two visible “bumps” atop Grace’s monument are evidence that the figure was once topped with a crown, as is typical in depictions of Mary.
Flossie/Flossy Scott Fisher (1899-7 November 1939), Rising Daughter Missionary Baptist Church, Spring Bluff. Cynthia Jennings discovered that Mrs. Fisher died in childbirth and puports that the second stone memorializes her infant, also lost at birth.
Maggie Green (Birth and death dates unknown), Clinch Chapel Cemetery, Tarboro.
Sina Green (Birth and death dates unknown), Oak Hill Cemetery, Camden County. Cynthia Jennings has discovered that Mrs. Green’s husband, Anthony Green, served in the United States Colored Infantry in the Civil War and received a pension. The churchyard is located near the Rains Landing Community.
Detail of Green Monument, Oak Hill Cemetery

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