Historic Memphis cemetery to be featured in TV series

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A crew from Nashville was at Zion Christian Cemetery on South Parkway East Thursday, taping for a program called the “Citizenship Project.”

For Doctor Tyrone Davis, the history of Zion Christian Cemetery is a story he’s never tired of telling.

“This is the oldest African American community cemetery in Memphis,” said Davis. “In this property, we believe there are more than thirty thousand, probably forty thousand people buried.”

Volunteers recognized for work to preserve historic Zion Cemetery

On fifteen acres on South Parkway East, Zion’s story is important, Davis says, because of who founded it and why.

“This cemetery was founded in 1876 by a group of freed slaves who recognized that if you did not belong to one of these churches with a cemetery on their property, and you died, there was no place for you to be buried,” said Davis.

Zion’s history will soon be shared on a much larger stage.

Thursday, a crew from Nashville Public Television was at Zion, taping part of a series called the “Citizenship Project.”

“This program covers the preservation of African American cemeteries across the State. We’re covering cemeteries in Memphis, Chattanooga, Lebanon, and Nashville,” said Ed Jones, Senior Producer of Nashville Public Television.

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The NPT segment will also feature an interview with Dr. Peatchola Jones-Cole, who along with Davis, co-edited a book named Historic Zion Cemetery in Memphis, a five-year project featuring interviews with several surviving family members whose loved ones are buried there.

“As they would hand-write it, I would type it. I would take it back to them, I would read it to them to make sure I captured exactly what they wanted to say in this book,” said Dr. Jones-Cole.

Zion Cemetery is also the burial place of three men who were victims of the 1892 lynchings that inspired the international anti-lynching crusade of Ida B. Wells.

The Zion Community Project, Inc. plans to restore the cemetery, eventually creating a public park environment for the community.

It is not yet clear when the segment on Zion Cemetery will air.

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