a Few


By Tavon
Tavon worked with the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund on the American Historical Association grant. He helped build the WebAtlas of African American Burial Grounds, particularly in Bolivar County and Carroll County, where he maintains deep ancestral ties. His contributions to the project were crucial, and we look forward to working with him in the future to expand the WebAtlas. He currently lives in Washington D.C.



Hello, I wanted to write just a few lines to let you hear from me. My name is Tavon. I’m a young Man to most folks, but I have always been deeply fascinated with the old stuff. I got into this field due to my admiration for the Blues & Black History in general, and I reached out to the Mt Zion Memorial Fund a while back to discuss my research on Charley Patton and the Chatmon family. T. DeWayne Moore, sought me out because he realized I had a genuine passion & that I was very good at what I do, which is research & write.


I started my career as a genealogist at the age of ten, when my great grandmother sat me down and told me about her ancestors. Her husband was born in Coila, which sits nestled in “the Hill country” of Carroll County, and he had one of the largest families that I know of, with kinship ties to hundreds. I have documented his lineage in my family tree. Perhaps most impressively, four of the great Mississippi Bluesmen fit in his tree as well. His nephew, Ray, was the husband of Eugene “Sonny Boy Nelson” Powell’s daughter, Viola. His second cousin was married to John Hurt’s nephew. His uncle had a much younger first cousin named Willie “Brewer” Phillips. In fact, if you dig deep enough, Eugene “Lucky” Fluker even fits into his family tree through marriage.


Carroll County has a long, rich history. A host of famous people, such as Michael Jackson & the Jackson family, Diana Ross, Oprah Winfrey, John McCain, Sonny Liston, and Morgan Freeman, can trace their lineage back to the rolling hills on the edge of the Delta. I even have familial ties through marriage to the Jackson family and the paternal grandmother of Oprah Winfrey–the Woods family.


In my quest to know all that I could about my ancestors, I also sought out their burial sites. I have been able to locate many of their graves, but not all of them. Not only has the state of Mississippi went a long way towards silencing African American history, but it has abhorrent history of erasing our ancestral burial grounds. The scorching impact of economic development has eradicated many of them–whether it’s houses, retail stores, or military installations, such as the base in Greenwood, which sits atop a Black cemetery. Lots of cemeteries, such as Ellendale Cemetery in Carroll County, remained undocumented and unmarked on contemporary maps, and the only people who know of their location are elders in our communities.


There are many African American cemeteries across the United States that have received the same treatment. Given the long history of the exploitation of Black bodies–chattel slavery, disfranchisement, racial segregation, and lynching–it’s no real surprise that our remains are disregarded in death.
That is why I work with the Mt Zion Memorial Fund. I have no illusions about our ability to eliminate racial inequality–nor do I believe it’s possible to redress the legacy of slavery and segregation solely through historic preservation. The Mt. Zion Memorial Fund takes concrete steps, however, to prevent the erasure of African American history. Doing much more than raising awareness about the problem, they work with descendant communities to make sure that the final resting places of our great ancestors remain as exactly what they are–sacred ground.
Sincerely yours,
[Below are some photos from a few of the submissions Tavon made to the WebAtlas. To examine his work more closely, please visit the WebAtlas 1.1]
Mt. Pleasant Church & Cemetery - Carroll County, MS

Mt. Pleasant Church & Cemetery - Carroll County, MS

Wall Family Cemetery - Carroll County, MS

Wall Family Cemetery - Carroll County, MS

Bluff Springs Methodist Cemetery - Carroll County, MS

Bluff Springs Methodist Cemetery - Carroll County, MS