The Hidden History of America’s Cemeteries

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Three angel statues seen at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pa. (Image courtesy of Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery)

Three angel statues seen at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pa. (Image courtesy of Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery)

Journalist GREG MELVILLE says the 144,000 cemeteries across America are time capsules of the country’s past, rich with history but often overlooked. In a new book, he explores graveyards from Colonial Jamestown to the Philadelphia region’s Laurel Hill and what they reveal about religion, race, identity, imagination and more.

Melville, who briefly worked as a gravedigger, writes about how natural burial practices changed to modern chemical embalming and are now heading back to more eco-friendly practices, the multibillion dollar “death industrial complex,” and how Facebook acts as a digital cemetery, with over 30 million people memorialized. And from the desecration of indigenous burial grounds to the segregated cemeteries of the South, Melville also explains how much graveyards reflect about our nation’s troubled past. His new book is, Over My Dead Body: Unearthing the Hidden History of America’s Cemeteries.

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