The Periwinkle Initiative is a public humanities and education initiative dedicated to preserving cultural heritage associated with enslaved Americans. Currently, the core project of the Initiative is the National Burial Database of Enslaved Americans - which will be the first and only national repository to preserve data on burials and burial grounds of enslaved Americans. The Periwinkle Initiative also seeks to engage in works that cultivate historical and racial reconciliation in the United States.
Institutional advisors and partners to the Periwinkle Initiative include the National Park Service, UNESCO Slavery and Remembrance Initiative, and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University.
The Periwinkle Initiative derives its name from the Periwinkle flower that certain scholars believe was the most common wildflower brought to gravesites of enslaved Americans. This perennial flower has guided researchers to many abandoned burial grounds that would have otherwise gone undetected.
Sandra Arnold is a public historian and visual storyteller based in New York City. She is the founder and director of the Periwinkle Initiative, a public humanities and education initiative dedicated to preserving cultural heritage associated with enslaved Americans. Her work has garnered partnerships and advisors from various noted institutions including UNESCO, the National Park Service, and the National Civil Rights Museum.
born and raised in rural Tennessee during the American Civil Rights
Her parents and grandparents are survivors of the Jim Crow era, and her great-grandfather lived most of his early life enslaved. It was the discovery of his gravesite that sparked her research and passion to protect cultural heritage associated with enslaved Americans.
Arnold received her B.A. in History from Fordham University where she began developing her public-work to create a national repository to document burial grounds of enslaved Americans. Her additional research and interests include historical and racial reconciliation, photography, writing and filmmaking.
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