Peggy King Jorde, an expert on African burial grounds, has dedicated her life to ensuring we keep the memories of the disenfranchised alive.

“I draw inspiration and strength and guidance for doing what I think is our ancestors’ unfinished business,” Ms. King Jorde said of her work.

The Martha’s Vineyard chapter of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History hosted Ms. King Jorde for a virtual talk Tuesday afternoon, where she discussed both her Island roots and her extensive career preserving African burial grounds around the world.

Ms. King Jorde’s Vineyard connections extend back to the end of the 19th century in Oak Bluffs. Her relative, William Henry Kiner, served as a custodian for the Bradley Memorial Church, one of the most influential churches for the Island’s African American community in the first half of the 20th century.

“I was saddened to see that the church has been torn down, and it’s actions like that I try to stop,” she said.

Ms. King Jorde’s research on African burial grounds began in the 1990s during New York City Mayor David Dinkins’s administration and continues to this day.

“The future generations of descendants will need us to make this history whole,” she said.

Recently, she has been working on the effort to preserve a burial ground of over 8,000 enslaved Africans on the remote British overseas territory of St. Helena in the south Atlantic.

“It is a call for the reburial of 325 remains of those same ancestors who are now stored — and have been stored — in a prison facility, in boxes for more than a decade, and a call for the protection of the site’s historical integrity,” she said of her campaign.

Her work on St. Helena is chronicled in the documentary A Story of Bones, which will be released in 2022.