A Long Awaited Tombstone For A Former Slave

As Dora Faison looks at the new headstone marking Pleasant Reed's grave, she says, "I just felt it was so important to have a marker. Everybody needs to have a marker, people need to know where you are."

With the new donated headstone, everyone will now know where to find Pleasant Reed's grave in the Biloxi Cemetery. For 68 years, the former slave's remains were unmarked, next to the grave of his eldest son and his wife Georgia.

After the Civil War Reed moved to Biloxi, determined to give his family more than what he had.

"He did jobs in the city. He worked on the back bay at a brickyard, a lumberyard, and then he did extra work for people in the city. He just squirreled his money away and paid for his house cash," Faison says.

Reed designed and built the house himself in a time when that was unheard of for black citizens.

"At that time, African Americans were charged between 60 to 80 percent interest on bank loans, so he just decided he'd do it the old fashioned way, I guess you would say. He just did a little bit at a time until it was completed."

Dora Faison's sorority Delta Sigma Theta bought the house in 1978 from Reed's youngest daughter. It was moved from downtown to the site of the new Ohr-O'keefe museum. Digging into the Reed family history has become a personal crusade for Faison.

"I sort of took it on as a passion. I just wanted to study and research the family and that's what I've been doing for that many years."

The group restored the Reed house and it is now open for tours. With the cemetery not too far away, Faison says tourists may also want to visit Pleasant Reed's final resting place. Jerry O'Keefe donated the marker for Pleasant Reed's grave.

Dora Faison says her sorority's next project is to get a headstone for the grave of Pleasant's wife, Georgia.