The cultural landscapes of African American communities in the 19th century were often anchored with a church, cemetery, and school. Sectarian and secular dynamics interacted in shaping the terrains of those social networks. This article explores such developments in the impacts of religious beliefs, practices, and congregations on the strategic locations and configurations of churches and cemeteries before and after the Civil War, with a focus on the U.S. Midwest. For example, the founding and placement of African Methodist Episcopal churches in the antebellum period often aided routes of escape from slavery. Cemeteries could provide spaces for continuing developments of African heritage practices. In landscapes where residential and commercial environments could, at times, be racially integrated, placement of churches and graveyards were subjects of both pragmatic choices and symbolic associations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)550-564
Number of pages15
JournalHistorical Archaeology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • African Americans
  • activism
  • burials
  • churches
  • escape routes
  • landscapes
  • symbolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology


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