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Gone Home: Southern Folk Gravestone Art

Jack Solomon and Olivia Solomon

NewSouth Books
$19.95 paperback
7 x 10
132 pages
black-and-white photos throughout
Suzannah Solomon, photography
Published in 2004

Four decades ago, folklorists Jack and Olivia Solomon began visiting—often with their children—and documenting Southern cemeteries, recording the names, lives, and epitaphs of thousands of the deceased. The volume they now share with us is not a Book of the Dead, but a Book of Life.

The Solomons reveal here their love and respect for the “final resting places” of this world. In these pages are recorded the sorrow for a lost child, the anger over the murder of a brother, the strengths of an admired civic leader, the life of a beloved preacher, the character of a stalwart soldier, as well as the grief for a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, a wife, a husband. Many of these epitaphs console and give promise of a “better home over yonder.” Others remind one of the shortness of life and the surety of death. As in life, there is wit—and profundity—the laconic remark, “She hath done what she could.”

Read Gone Home for the joy of remembrance and for the pleasure of discovery—the discovery of brave, loving, compassionate men and women who have “gone home.” Read this book because it will speak to you as if you were walking through a familiar cemetery.

The book also discusses historical precedents for Alabama epitaphs, different types of epitaphs, gravestone writings as folk literature, gravestones as architecture/sculpture, and the lettering of epitaphs.