Historical documentary almost a wrap

Published 12:30 am Saturday, December 18, 2010

A documentary featuring a Vicksburg cemetery is undergoing some tweaking and will be ready for release after the new year.

The Beulah Cemetery Restoration Committee commissioned the project in the spring. In July, Jackson-based Cam Cam Video Productions was hired to produce a 20-minute documentary on the private graveyard established in 1884 by the Vicksburg Tabernacle No. 19 Independent Order of Brothers and Sisters of Love and Charity.

“This video is going to keep, at the utmost, in the youths’ minds that this is a historical place,” said committee president Pearline Williams who, along with others, gathered Friday afternoon at the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library for a first look at the documentary. “Now, it won’t be forgotten.”

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The film is narrated by Clinton author and poet J. Moffett Walker and features key players in the cemetery’s restoration and history, including Williams; cemetery manager Leo Sims; longtime Vicksburg resident Thelma Rush; state Rep. George Flaggs, a Democrat from Vicksburg who helped fund the project; and the Jefferson family, owners of the first black funeral home in Vicksburg.

The film cost around $2,500. Flaggs, using campaign funds, donated half, and the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau the other half.

“It’s important that we restore as much history as we can in this city,” said Flaggs.

“I think this (video) is going to be one of the key things to get people to understand the historical significance of (Beulah) and secure some funding to do what needs to be done,” said James Jefferson Jr., co-owner of the W.H. Jefferson Funeral Home, which opened about 10 years after the cemetery, in 1894. “You don’t want to see it go away.”

Beulah has about 5,500 graves and was the primary burial ground for Vicksburg’s African-Americans until the 1940s, when burials there started tapering off and heading to the city’s cemetery, Cedar Hill.

The land, which shares a border with the Vicksburg National Military Park, is open for burials, but was neglected and overgrown before the restoration committee backed efforts to maintain the land through grants and volunteers almost 20 years ago.

On Monday, about 60 volunteers from AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps Southern Region will help clear debris and overgrown weeds, committee secretary Karen Frederick said.

After the documentary’s release, it will be available for viewing at the VCVB, public libraries and visitors centers throughout the state. An option to purchase a DVD is in the works.

“This is just the beginning,” Frederick said.