Praise from Luminaries and Activists
Bill Moyers Journal
"This is the riveting story of a remarkable effort to resurrect the dead. And it couldn’t have come at a more crucial time. What Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz called our ‘refusal to remember’ threatens, in the midst of a fantastic proliferation of mass media, to sever our links to the past and leave us a nation of amnesiacs sliding into the memory hole. Here is an antidote: The search by a handful of dedicated people, inspired by one woman’s persistence, to uncover a long-neglected burial ground and give the anonymous folk interred there the voice denied them as slaves. Read on; I guarantee that once you start, you will not stop, and when you are done, you will have discovered the healing power of Love Cemetery."
Sue Monk Kidd,
Author of The Secret Life of Bees
"Racial injustice continues to be a wound in American life that calls out for particular and concrete narratives of healing. This book is just such a narrative, but an especially evocative one. Galland captures the struggle to reclaim one small cemetery in Texas with such engrossing drama and personal detail that the story becomes something larger still–a universal struggle to reclaim the ground of Deep Compassion that lies untended in the human heart. Love Cemetery is a moving work of immense social consciousness and spiritual power written by a very gifted writer."
Director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, University of Mississippi
"If racial justice and reconciliation are to be achieved, they will most certainly begin in the humble but profound relationships shared here."
Author of Blessed Unrest, How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
(Viking, May 2007)
"Love Cemetery is a white woman’s odyssey into the shrouded past of racist America, a covert history that has been become as overgrown as the burial ground in the title. The author’s journey back to her family’s ancestral home of East Texas reconstructs the constancy of oppression and hate, a legacy of unexpressed sorrow firmly rooted in our national psyche. In this nearly forgotten African-American cemetery called Love lie centuries of grief. May you weep, as did I, for what Galland discovers in these piney woods, and through this offering know your country and self in humbling new ways. To create a page-turner about our collective shadow is the sweetest gift a writer can offer."
By the eve of the Civil War, there were four million slaves in North America, and Harrison County was the largest slave-owning county in Texas. So when China Galland returned to research her family history there, it should not have surprised her to learn of unmarked cemeteries for slaves. "My daddy never let anybody plow this end of the field," a local matron told a startled Galland during a visit to her antebellum mansion. "The slaves are buried there." Galland's subsequent effort to help restore just one of these cemeteries—Love Cemetery—unearths a quintessential American story of prejudice, land theft, and environmental destruction, uncovering racial wounds that are slow to heal.
Galland gathers an interracial group of local religious leaders and laypeople to work on restoring Love Cemetery, securing community access to it, and rededicating it to the memories of those buried there. In her attempt to help reconsecrate Love Cemetery, Galland unearths the ghosts of slavery that still haunt us today. Research into county historical records and interviews with local residents uncover two versions of history—one black, one white. Galland unpacks these tangled narratives to reveal a history of shame—of slavery and lynching, Jim Crow laws and land takings (the theft of land from African-Americans), and ongoing exploitation of the land surrounding the cemetery by oil and gas drilling. With dread she even discovers how her own ancestors benefited from the racial imbalance.
She also encounters some remarkable, inspiring characters in local history. Surprisingly, the original deed for the cemetery's land was granted not by a white plantation owner, but by Della Love Walker, the niece of the famous African-American cowboy Deadwood Dick. Through another member of the Love Cemetery committee, Galland discovers a connection to Marshall's native son, James L. Farmer, a founder of Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and organizer of the 1961 Freedom Riders. In researching local history, Galland also learns of the Colored Farmers' Alliance, a statewide group formed in the 19th century that took up issues ranging from low wages paid to cotton pickers to emigration to Liberia.
By telling this one story of ultimate interracial and intergenerational cooperation, Galland provides a model of the kind of communal remembering and reconciliation that can begin to heal the deep racial scars of an entire nation.