Legal segregation was an ugly part of this country’s history, which Supreme Court rulings and progressive laws thankfully buried decades ago.
But the separate and unequal life that segregation forced upon African-Americans left many things behind that society should maintain. One is Highland Cemetery, established in 1909 east of Interstate 435 in unincorporated Jackson County. Jazz pianist and band leader Bennie Moten is buried there with many other African Americans. But the cemetery has no endowment, perpetual-care funds or historical society for upkeep and maintenance.
A Nov. 23 Kansas City Star story paints a haunting picture. The cemetery since 2010 has been owned by Land Trust of Jackson County because of a tax foreclosure judgment. Land Trust’s budget doesn’t include funds for cemetery maintenance.
Jackson County is rich in park land. The Legislature should step in, allocating funds to maintain the cemetery. The Legislature should do it for the African Americans whose final resting place is the Highland Cemetery and for others who might join them in the nearly filled property.
No one is proud of this community’s segregated past. However, for the sake of the people and the history left behind, the county must own the responsibility to take over Highland Cemetery and keep it well maintained as an attractive resting place.