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Nashville in Davidson County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
 

Slave Burials

Belle Meade Plantation

 
 
Slave Burials Marker image. Click for full size.
By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, October 18, 2020
1. Slave Burials Marker
Inscription.  
Due to the lack of records kept by slave owners, including those at Belle Meade, it is often difficult to piece together the full story of the daily lives and experiences of enslaved individuals. In particular, and particularly disheartening, is the lack of information about the burial practices and locations of the people who were held in slavery on this estate.

Because modern embalming procedures did not come into wide use, especially in the South, until after the Civil War, it is likely that burial of an enslaved person would happen shortly after death. Typically, funerals for enslaved people took place at night and we assume this was true at Belle Meade, as well. Evening and nighttime hours were often the only time of the day when many enslaved people were not required to be about their forced work. Likewise, holding funerals at night allowed other members of the enslaved communities from nearby plantations to attend the services. In certain parts of the South, slave owners placed limitations on funeral traditions for their enslaved workers; in some cases, owners required that they be allowed to attend the services, out of
Slave Burials Marker image. Click for full size.
By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, October 18, 2020
2. Slave Burials Marker
the fear that any congregation of enslaved people might lead to rebellion. In other areas, slave funerals were one aspect of enslaved culture that was untouched by white men, their customs, or their religious traditions. For example, there are accounts of white seashells or pebbles being used to decorate burial places in some parts of the South. These items are indicative of the watery underworld that features in the religious customs of some Central African tribes; additionally, some historians note that in Central Africa, the color white — not black — is associated with death.

The precise location of the graves of those enslaved at Belle Meade remains somewhat of a mystery, as death and burial records of the enslaved workers here no longer exist, if they ever did.

Archaeological evidence and oral history records indicated a burial site on land that is now included in the outskirts of the Percy Warner Park. Additional records suggest a burial site under what is now the Belle Meade Highlands neighborhood. Following Emancipation, several formerly enslaved men and women, such as Susannah Carter and her family, were buried at Mount Ararat Cemetery, the first African American cemetery in Nashville.

Caption: Susannah Carter
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans
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Anthropology & ArchaeologyCemeteries & Burial SitesChurches & Religion.
 
Location. 36° 6.373′ N, 86° 51.838′ W. Marker is in Nashville, Tennessee, in Davidson County. Marker can be reached from Harding Pike (U.S. 70S) 0.2 miles north of Leake Avenue, on the right when traveling north. Marker is on grounds of Belle Meade Plantation Historic Site. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 5025 Harding Pike, Nashville TN 37205, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Mausoleum (within shouting distance of this marker); Belle Meade Bourbon (within shouting distance of this marker); Ice House (within shouting distance of this marker); Slave Cabin (within shouting distance of this marker); Dairy (within shouting distance of this marker); Belle Meade Plantation (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Belle Meade Plantation (within shouting distance of this marker); War on the Home Front (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Nashville.
 
Additional keywords. slavery, human trafficking, forced labor
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Credits. This page was last revised on October 20, 2020. It was originally submitted on October 19, 2020, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 48 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on October 19, 2020, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.
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Jan. 18, 2021