Monday, May 12, 2014

Cemetery Log Date: May 12, 2014

"We are a people. A people do not throw their geniuses away. If they do, it is our duty as witnesses for the future to collect them again for the sake of our children. If necessary, bone by bone."--Alice Walker, author, 1976.


The Garden of Heavenly Rest is located in the middle of a Fort Pierce neighborhood.  I first read about the cemetery in a postscript to the book Their Eyes Were Watching God and knew I had to get there to see the site myself.  Visiting the site I was struck by the beauty of her grave, the art pieces installed around the cemetery, but mostly by the fact the cemetery lies open and exposed to the neighborhood around it.  It was Sunday and you could see families gathering in yards after church throwing a football back and forth across the street.  I think Zora would like that very much.

Zora died in 1960 and the community raised funds to have her buried in an unmarked grave in Garden of Heavenly Rest.  The stone you see today was placed there by Alice Walker in 1973.  The inscription was written by Alice Walker and includes some misinformation.  The stone states she was born in 1901, but she was actually born in 1891.

This cemetery is NOT recorded on the Florida Master Site File.  Yet!  If you are in the Ft. Pierce area and interested in helping us record this significant site, the Site ID team needs your help.  It's quite confusing as there is a larger cemetery southeast of this one also called Garden of Heavenly Rest, which is also not on the state site file.  More research is needed to understand the duplicate names.


Who: Ownership not identified at this time, will keep looking

What:   ZORA NEALE HURSTON/"A GENIUS OF THE SOUTH"/NOVELIST  FOLKLORIST/ANTHROPOLOGIST/1901   1960

Where: Corner of 17th Street and Avenue S in Fort Pierce, FL.  Directions (note: do not use Find a Grave map, it will lead you to the wrong location)

When: Open dawn to dusk

Why:
  • I would liken the experience to a pilgrimage, visiting this site is something all those who appreciate her work should do at least once in their life
  • Visiting the Fort Pierce neighborhood is in its own way an immersive experience. Alice Walker describes many people she encountered and interviewed on the street, some kind and some bristly. 
  • Historically this was a segregated cemetery therefore many 20th century African-American internments and headstone styles can be found.

"I have the nerve to walk my own way, however hard, in my search for reality, rather than climb upon the rattling wagon of wishful illusions."
     - Letter from Zora Neale Hurston to Countee Cullen



Interpretive signage from Dust Tracks Heritage Trail by St. Lucie County Library System (FHC grant).



Text and images: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff

For previous posts search: Cemetery a Day in May or #CaDiM

2014 #CaDiM posts



2013 #CaDiM posts
Intro, May 1: National, May 2: Oakdale, May 3: Murphy's Creek, May 4: Mt. Olive, May 5: Bosque Bello, May 6: Old City, May 7: Espanola, May 8: Tolomato, May 9: Pacetti, May 10: West View, May 11: Magnolia SpringsMay 12: St. Peter's, May 13: Gravely Hill, May 14: Pilgrim's Rest, May 15: God's Little Acre, May 16: Dummet's Grave, May 17: No Name, May 18: St. Monica, May 19: St. Joseph's, May 20:  Old St. Joseph's (Duval), May 21: Sampson, May 22: Fernandez Reserve, May 23: St. Ambrose, May 24: Sons of Israel, May 25: Sanksville, May 26: Huguenot, May 27: Nombre de Dios, May 28: Beresford, May 29: Jones, May 30: San Sebastian/Pinehurst, May 31: Oaklynn

One Response so far.

  1. shayen707 says:

    That's where they buried the black people on that side. Later on in years black people were able to get buried along with white people on the other side. I was born and raised in Ft. Pierce. My mother has since passed but they knew Zora. She worked across the street from my grandparents house and she would stop by and sit on the porch with my grandparents and family. My mother and siblings were kids at the time.

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