Indiana Daily Student

LETTER: 'Literary license to a new level': Cohen draws connection from unmarked grave to racism

The article entitled “Indignity in Death” written by Matt Cohen, dated Dec. 10, 2021, takes literary license to a new level. The first paragraph reads like the opening of a fiction novel that has no basis in fact except that I do visit the gravesite of my family members to decorate and tend to their graves. Years ago, I promised my mother that I would continue to do that in her stead. However, I am not trying to talk to my great-grandfather H.V. Eagleson. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure or the privilege of knowing him because he passed decades before I was even born.

When Matt asked me for an interview, it was under the guise of Monroe County deciding to place a monument on H.V. Eagleson’s grave. I agreed to do the interview because I wanted to express my appreciation to the Monroe County Cemetery Committee for moving forward with their plan — published in their 2016 calendar — and express how pleased and grateful I was that the City of Bloomington was also renaming Jordon Avenue after my great-grandfather. At no time did he say or imply that he was writing a piece on racism tied to “indignity in death” or I would not have done the interview because I do not have any knowledge or reason to think that is true regarding the Eagleson family graves or other Black families buried at Rose Hill. 

What I did say was that I was happy to see that the monument and street renaming was the initiative of the county and city without prodding or protesting. I said I was proud of how , as far as I knew, these initiatives sprang from the acknowledgment of H.V. Eagleson himself and the accomplishments of his family. When Matt asked me why there was no headstone on my great-grandfather’s grave, I told him I had no idea why. I said it could have been an issue of affordability at the time or vandalism that occurs in many communities. 

There are other errors in the article as they relate to the family but I particularly want to point out the following:

  • H.V. Eagleson’s daughter was not the first IU female graduate (as stated under my photo). That honor goes to Francis Marshal Eagleson who was his grandson’s wife.

I appreciate Matt shedding light on the history of my family and the Bloomington community as a whole, but it wasn’t necessary to misrepresent his motives when he asked for the interview. The history of racism in Bloomington is a subject in itself that did not need to be masked under the guise of a piece on my great-grandfather’s grave.

— Vivian Bridgwaters-Gray

Clarification: In the letter Vivian mentioned how the first IU female graduate was incorrectly stated in the article. Upon further review the IDS deemed Vivian was correct and we have run a correction on the online version of the story.

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