End ‘Whites Only’ Burial Policy

Target: San Domingo Cemetery Director Jimmy Bradford

Goal: End alleged “whites only” burial policy.

There are instances when people of color are denied cemetery plots on the basis of their race. Men and women in the throes of grief have found themselves face-to-face with outdated, Jim Crow-esque policies that have created an environment where only white people are permitted to eternally rest. Even though laws exist that are designed to integrate cemeteries, the fact there are instances where burial is denied based upon skin color thrust communities into divisive, modern-day desegregation fights.

Dorothy Barrera is at the center of one of these fights. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) has filed a lawsuit against the Normanna Cemetery Association (NCA). According to the MALDEF, the NCA is currently “violating the Civil Rights Act by enforcing a ‘whites only’ rule.” According to the lawsuit, the NCA told Dorothy Barrera her deceased husband could not be buried in one of the cemeteries “because he’s a Mexican” and directed Dorothy to “go up the road and bury him with the niggers and Mexicans” in another cemetery.

The NCA backtracked, allowing Dorothy Berrera’s husband to be buried in the cemetery she had originally wanted to inter him. No one knows who made the decision to backtrack or why, as information about the NCA’s governing board is not public. There is evidence that the NCA’s tax exemption status was revoked by the IRS.

Dorothy Barerra plans to sue on her own. The U.S. Department of Justice is also looking into her case. Sign the petition to let the NCA know that their alleged “whites only” burial policy is unacceptable and force them to make the institutional changes necessary so that incidents like this do not happen again.


Dear Mr. Bradford,

It is illegal in the United States to segregate the dead on the basis of their race, as per the Civil Rights Act. Furthermore, “whites only” cemeteries have been illegal in Texas since 1948 when the United States Supreme Court outlawed racial covenants on real estate properties. Moreover, Texas state law dictates that cemetery organizations, such as the Normanna Cemetery Association, are outlawed from adopting or enforcing rules that prohibit burials on the basis of “race, color, or national origin of decedent.”

It is with this in mind that we urge you to take all necessary steps in ensuring that such outdated policies never again are alleged to take place. It is imperative to make sure racial inclusiveness remains a default assumption whenever grieving families are trying to work through their pain while putting their loved ones into the ground.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Heather

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