GIS Center students create brochure, story map to preserve the stories of African-American soldiers

CLARKSVILLE, TN – Earlier this year, Josh Gramlick, a student at Austin Peay State University and the GIS Center, partnered with a local historic preservation society to help tell the story of the African American soldiers in Clarksville .

The geography elder spent the summer working with the Mount Olive Cemetery Historical Preservation Society to create a brochure and digital history map to share the stories.

Josh Gramlick senior in geography (left) and Javon Dixon in senior computer science (right)

“We were scouring the site several times, collecting data points (GPS) for these graves – you can barely see some of them,” Gramlick said. “We went to each of the sites and got the exact location of all the sites. The sites you see on the maps are specific and associated with each Veteran.

The history map not only shares a detailed history of the cemetery, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but also the stories of every soldier buried there. These stories include soldiers who served in the Civil War, in the western United States after the Civil War, and in World War II.

Gramlick also enlisted the help of fellow GIS student Javon Dixon, a senior in computer science and graphic design minor from APSU who fine-tuned the final design of the brochure.

“It really touched me to know that I’m taking a big part of Clarksville and working to bring it back to life,” Dixon said. “It was an important matter for me to bring all types of skills to this project. It has been a big influence for me, and I hope it will influence other people to make a change in Clarksville.

‘A journey to discover history’

GIS Center Director Mike Wilson praised the work of Gramlick and Dixon, not only as an example of the center’s importance to the community, but also as an example of the importance of the Mount Olive Cemetery Historical Preservation Society. for the community.

“It’s really important to recognize the great work they do,” he said.

The Mount Olive Cemetery Historical Preservation Society strives to help present and future generations discover and celebrate the African American history of Clarksville. Those buried at the cemetery represent not only US Army veterans, but also stories from churches, schools, and other local historic organizations.

The cemetery, established in 1817, is the largest private African-American cemetery in Clarksville with approximately 1,350 graves. About 241 civilians and 32 veterans – including 30 American soldiers of color, one Buffalo soldier, and one World War II soldier – have been identified.

“Members of society, there are only a handful of us, we are uncovering the history of this cemetery,” said Mike Taliento, director of education for the preservation society. “Whenever we can expand that circle and bring in people who are passionate and interested in preserving this history, creating opportunities for the community, county, state and nation to benefit from and understand our history, this is part of the mission. ”

A partnership to preserve and share history

The preservation society’s work with the GIS Center responds to this mission by developing educational briefings, handouts, guided and self-guided tours and lectures that share the cemetery’s history.

“I contacted Mike Wilson, looking for an opportunity to develop a veterans locator map that could be used by visitors to enter the cemetery on their own, allowing them to walk around the cemetery and the tombstones of our veterans buried there, ”Taliento mentioned. “They developed a digital version of it, which is pretty amazing, and we linked it to our library of biographies, so that visitors to visit the cemetery, they have the opportunity to retrieve the biography of the soldier who is buried there and to learn all about him. “

Taliento praised Gramlick’s work and the other partnerships the company has forged with Austin Peay employees and students.

“He certainly did a lot of big jobs and he was very passionate about it,” he said. “We take every opportunity to bring in students, university professors, anyone who wishes to contribute to the preservation of our history.

“Tools like the map created by the GIS Center inspire people to pursue this preservation,” Taliento added. “I think we all have, as citizens, a patriotic and civic responsibility to do what we can to preserve our history and share it, pass it on to the generations that come before us.”

How Austin Peay Employees, Students Continue To Help

Several Austin Peay departments and organizations have assisted the Mount Olive Cemetery Historical Preservation Society over the years, Taliento said.

“From ground penetrating radar assistance to cleanups with us,” he said. “There was interest with the history department, which supported our educational commitment. ”

In late October, two chapters of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. (Hopkinsville / Fort Campbell Alumni Chapter and Austin Peay’s Theta Beta Chapter) helped with a weekend clean-up at the cemetery.

And from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, November 7, Austin Peay’s students, faculty and staff will participate in an educational tour and cemetery clean-up. This effort is sponsored by the Austin Peay Latin Community Resource Center in conjunction with Brotherhood and Sorority Affairs, the Wilbur N. Daniel African American Cultural Center, and the Military Students Center.

In addition, Professor Tyler Nolting, Austin Peay’s Professor of Health and Human Performance, is a Fellow of the Society.


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