Coppin State University

Rediscovering the African-American graveyard beneath a Baltimore shopping center

Rediscovering the African-American graveyard beneath a Baltimore shopping center

Ron Castanzo pulled up to the parking lot of the strip mall in the Belair-Edison neighborhood of Northeast Baltimore in his minivan a while back.

On a grassy spot near the entrance of the Belair Edison Crossing shopping center on Belair Road, he saw the top of a white tombstone breaking through the ground, like a tooth coming in.

Castanzo, a professor at the University of Baltimore who teaches courses in anthropology and human biology, remembers thinking: “Wow, there was a cemetery here.”

It was the beginning of an effort to dig up a past long paved over. Laurel Cemetery opened in 1852 as the first non-religious cemetery for Baltimore’s African-American community....

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