Booker T. Washington Cemetery
Booker T. Washington Cemetery is located off Illinois Route 163 (also known as Millstadt Road) near the intersection with Illinois Route 157 in Cahokia Heights (formerly Centreville), Illinois. The cemetery is also known as Booker Washington Cemetery and Washington Cemetery. The cemetery was founded by Russie McCullen “R.M.C.” Green, an African American undertaker, on September 10, 1919. A plat of the cemetery dated January 30, 1920, containing 9 sections and 548 lots, was recorded by the St. Clair County Recorder on March 17, 1920. An addition to the cemetery was platted on November 18, 1966 by Gertrude A. (Hudson) Green, daughter-in-law of the founder and spouse of Edgar H. Green (son of R.M.C).
The cemetery did not have a perpetual care program for the graves. The present ownership of this cemetery is unknown. The cemetery is in poor condition and has been for decades. Weeds cover the graves. The property suffers from flooding, criminal activity, and illegal dumping. Booker T. Washington Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 12,000 African Americans including freed slaves, military veterans, and prominent East St. Louis residents.
These more than 12,000 burials are preserved in the records of the cemetery. The records consisting of lot cards and seven ledger books were donated to the SCCGS by Ms. Patricia (McGee) Little, daughter of Gertrude A. (Hudson) Green. The ledger books cover the period September 1919 through September 1972. The ledgers contain a listing of the burials and information on the lots sold as well as an accounting of expenses and cash received. The records are in a very fragile condition and are not available for public viewing.
The time periods within the seven ledgers overlap. For example, ledger books 1, 2, 3 and 6 cover the same time frame. Most likely the original ledgers were copied. However, it is unknown which of the books are original and which are copies. There are variations in names and dates between the books, which may be a result of copying errors or corrections made.
The records are currently being transcribed and indexed. Indexes will be added to this page as they are completed. In addition, three unindexed binders containing a listing of the burials and information about the lots can be accessed at the Belleville Public Library and East St. Louis Public Library.
“Colored People Secure Cemetery,” East St. Louis (Illinois) Daily Journal, 18 Mar 1920, p. 2, cols. 4-5.
“New Cemetery In East St. Louis,” Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, 17 Mar 1920, p. 1, col. 7.
St. Clair County, Illinois, Plat, Book W: 18; Recorder of Deeds, Belleville.
St. Clair County, Illinois, Plat, Book 61: 30; Recorder of Deeds, Belleville.
“Cemetery land deal stirs controversy,” Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, 3 Apr 1995, p. 1A, cols. 2-5.
“Historic cemetery has few friends left,” St. Louis (Missouri) Globe-Democrat, 15 Apr 1981, p. X, col. X.
“State comptroller plans to restore historic plot,” Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, 26 May 2000, p. 3B, col. 1.
“Long-neglected black cemetery will be restored in Centreville,” Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, 28 May 2000, p. 1B, cols. 2-4.
“Officials work to uncover part of area’s history, St. Louis (Missouri) Post-Dispatch, 13 Nov 2003, p. MC7.
“Looking for Leah,” Sunday News-Democrat, Belleville, Illinois, 12 Jun 2005, p. 1A, cols. 1-5.
“Restoring Pieces of Black Heritage,” Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, 15 Feb 2006, p. 1A, cols. 2-4.
“Charter school students help clear long-neglected cemetery,” News-Democrat, Belleville, Illinois, 17 Jun 2006, p. 3B, cols. 4-6.
“Historic Cemetery Gets a Cleanup,” Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, 19 Jul 2007, p. 1A, cols. 1-5.
“U of I students fix up ESL park, cemetery,” Sunday News-Democrat, Belleville, Illinois, 30 Mar 2008, p. B3, cols. 3-6.
“Belleville fraternity leads cleanup initiative at historic Black cemetery,” Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, 9 May 2021, p. 1A.
“Find Woman’s Leg In Shallow Grave,” Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, 29 May 1963, p. 1, col. 7.
“Discovery of Leg Mystery Solved,” Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, 3 Jun 1963, p. 14, col. 1.
“Lack of interest tables cemetery issue,” Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, 3 Jan 1996, p. 1B, cols. 2-4.
“Lecture Notes-March 2004,” St. Clair County Genealogical Society Newsletter 27 (April 2004): 1.
“Booker T. Washington Cemetery,” St. Clair County Genealogical Society Quarterly 28 (2005): 218-219.
“Filling a Void,” Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, 19 Aug 2006, p. 1C, cols. 1-4.
Teri Bromley, “Booker T. Washington Cemetery,” St. Clair County Genealogical Society Quarterly 38 (2015): 47-49.
“Researcher will make records of black cemetery available,” Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, 6 May 2016, p. 1C.
“Bones in former cemetery may delay I-64 construction,” Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, 15 Oct 2019, p. 1A, cols. 1-4.
“Discovery of bones at former cemetery site sparks reaction,” Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, 8 Nov 2019, p. 1A.
“New I-64 interchange to include monument, space for pedestrians,” Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, 12 Aug 2022, p. 1A.
Sandi Bennett (deceased), Mera Hertel, Judy Jennings, Ron McClellan, and the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., “Booker T. Washington Cemetery: History, Tragedy, Rebirth,” The Advocate, St. Clair County Historical Society and Research Library, 51: 8 (August 2022), p. 1.
St. Clair County Genealogical Society, PO Box 431, Belleville, IL 62222-0431.
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