On Tuesday, August 17, at 3 pm, the Martha’s Vineyard chapter of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History will be hosting Peggy King Jorde, an expert on memorializing African burial grounds, as this month’s featured guest. Jorde will lead a virtual lecture and slideshow, alongside a trailer for a documentary slated to release in 2022 called “Story of Bones,” showing her work during the event.
King Jorde, a Georgia native, has summered on Martha’s Vineyard with her family for 15 years. However, she gets “slightly bristled” if called a seasonal visitor, since her own family has Island ties going back a century. King Jorde’s family worked to make a living in an oppressive society, and were active in the civil rights movement. Additionally, King Jorde knows enslaved Africans were working for free on the Island, which became known as “the playground of the Black elite.”
“When we call ourselves ‘seasonal,’ we’re discounting, discrediting, and ignoring the shoulders we are all standing on,” King Jorde said in a press release. “I speak here of the enslaved and their heirs, who were ‘working’ long before any of us began ‘summering’ here. My family was part of that larger narrative of enslavement and resettlement.”
King Jorde earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture and design at Bennington College, and a graduate degree in architecture from Columbia University. She was also a Leob Fellow at Harvard University’s School of Design in the mid-1990s. King Jorde used her architectural abilities to construct memorialization projects dedicated to enslaved Africans. She was hand-picked by former New York City Mayor David Dinkins “to oversee a project that would reshape federal plans to construct an office building on top of a colonial-era burial ground for enslaved Africans in Lower Manhattan,” which resulted in the National Park Service’s African Burial Ground National Monument & Interpretive Center. King Jorde was a part of multiple memorialization projects, including ones in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx in New York, and an antebellum cemetery in Newnan, Ga.
King Jorde also worked to fight symbols of oppression in America. She and her brother, documentary filmmaker Clennon L. King, led a campaign to persuade the Oak Bluffs select board to remove two plaques honoring Confederate soldiers. The plaques were removed after unanimous approval by the select board.
Tickets for the event can be purchased on Eventbrite.