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Historic cemetery: 500 graves on a quarter acre

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C-GM file photo The Persons of Color Cemetery located at Rothermel Avenue in Kinderhook.
February 10, 2019 09:44 pm Updated: February 11, 2019 09:46 am

 

HILLSDALE — The Roeliff Jansen Library held a film screening of a documentary Sunday featuring a local, nationally-recognized cemetery.

The one-hour documentary, “Brought to Light,” was produced by filmmaker Barbara Reina. The film focuses on the discovery of a historic cemetery with an estimated 500 African-American graves located on a quarter of an acre near Rothermel Avenue in Kinderhook. About 19 of the graves are marked. The site, which dates back to the mid 1800s, became nationally recognized in February 2016.

Reina released her documentary in December 2017. The screening began at 2 p.m. and was followed by a Q&A session. Local residents made Reina aware of the cemetery, Reina said.

“And I thought to myself — there’s a story there,” she said.

Reina’s background as a freelance reporter with the Register-Star covering Kinderhook and Valatie had given her an inquisitive mind.

“I studied radio and telecommunications as well as journalism,” Reina said. “So I have backgrounds in print, radio and video.”

Residents continued to keep her updated throughout the process, including when archaeologists from the State Museum came to the site in November 2017 and conducted a ground-penetrating radar survey.

“It was always the coldest day,” Reina said. “But it was worth it.”

Reina completed the project in nine months.

“This was my first independent film,” she added.

A goal of the project is to stimulate interest in doing more research, Reina said.

“I think a lot of people forget that we had slavery in the North, too,” she said.

New York had the largest slave population north of the Mason-Dixon line, Tammy Gaskell, library director, added.

Gaskell was pleased to host Reina’s film, she said.

“Local history is always a popular topic here,” she said. “The documentary is a great perspective of African-American history , which we don’t know that much about. We’re delighted to have it here.”

Reina said she has no firms plans for her next project.

“The African Roots Library Center in Kingston has contacted me,” she said.

The library has a local cemetery they are trying to get on the National Registry, Reina said.

“We’ll see what happens,” she said, adding that she has no definite plans.

The library does not have any other screenings currently scheduled, Gaskell said.

“We’re trying to do a series related to films drawn from classic books,” she noted.

To view the trailer for “Brought to Light,” visit https://barbarareina.com/kinderhook-documentary.