FRANKLIN, Tennessee, USA (sentinel.ht) – The Toussaint L’Ouverture County Cemetery is an historical African-American cemetery located in Franklin, Tennessee. It was listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places in 1995. It is named after Toussaint L’Ouverture, a leader of the Haitian Revolution. The earliest recorded burials date from 1869, but it wasn’t officially incorporated until 1884. It is “the oldest African American institution in continuous use” in Williamson County.
Those facts taken from the Wikipedia page for the cemetery doesn’t come close to the impact that the founding of this cemetery had for the African-American population living in slavery and the Jim Crow climate of the South. Writer, Brandon Byrd, in a Black Perspectives piece published by the African American Intellectual Historical Society (AAIHS) takes us through the long history of how the plot of land came to be a symbol of land ownership for African Americans.
According to Williamson County in Black and White, a book written by Rick Warwick of the Heritage Foundation, Henry Ewing, a local contractor, called upon members of the community to form an association to purchase land, four acres for $400. The 44 members who joined to form the Mt. L’Ouverture Association included Ewing, Sam Carothers, Caeser McEwen and Mollie Gadsey and signed papers in January of 1884, just 19 years after the Civil War.
If the American Revolution birthed the United States and Bayou Terrebonne, the Haitian Revolution re-shaped it.
His thoughtful and precise account of the events and motivations that led to the founding of the Toussaint L’Ouverture County Cemetery give us a closer look, a deeper perspective, of what life in those times and the struggle for freedom really was. It is a remarkable read about a remarkable four acre plot of land in the heart of the United States.