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Desert View Cemetery,
Winslow Arizona


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I sought my sister, 

dearly departed 




All images, photos and identifying information were seemingly lost to time—

not exactly erased, but somehow



I found her, in a high school yearbook—and she emerged as a teen-age pianist, graduating Winslow High in 1920, and demonstrating grit and leadership abilities that were admired by all:


The key of success is constancy and purpose…

Of study she takes care and most heed…


But I knew her differently—as one of the first Black principals in Arizona; head of the Dunbar School; as a spokesperson for racial uplift; as a motivator and sponsor for students, and for Wilson Riles—an educator and peacemaker of the highest order. 

Passing from view at age 39—too young, but her work was passed on to Riles and others.


Still, her image disappeared, as the memories of her students left behind, also faded—

until I sought my sister:

Finding her in a dusty plot with a faded headstone: Desert View Cemetery, Winslow Arizona—time and the elements had worn away the raised surface of the monument stone: “Cleo W. Murdoch, 1901-1940” was barely discernible.


The grass around the headstone grew abundantly, yellowed and tough, while the winds whispered and whirled; the gravesite lay undisturbed, silent and 



Until I sought my sister, and found her 

(not on “find a grave” – because the digital image of her headstone has no observable letters, except to those who search hard enough).

To be sure, I confirmed the plot for Ms. Cleo, using documentation kept by accountants in the Winslow cemetery department.


She was not recognized for “Standing on the Corner,” or for vacationing at La

Posada—although she may indeed have visited both these iconic locations during her years growing up in Winslow.


But I found her elsewhere: Desert View, in a plot listed in simple notation, confirming her final resting place in the Old City section.


A worn-away headstone, golden tufts of grass, a silent whisper of the wind—

She rests, but no longer alone.

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RICARDO GUTHRIE is Distinguished Associate Professor of Social Justice at Fisk University. He examines political narratives of the Black Press and writes about cinema as cultural political artifacts. He received the Humanities Public Scholar Award by Arizona Humanities in 2022 and was an Arizona Informant newsmaker of the year in 2021. He is an editor of the Journal of Global Indigeneity and a local artist/writer. He created the Historic Southside Mural at the Murdoch Center (2011-2021) and the Lived Black Experience on Route 66--an oral history research project in Flagstaff, AZ. From 2016 to 2020, Dr. Guthrie was director of Ethnic Studies at Northern Arizona University. Recent publications include: “Confederates and Colonial Commemoration in the US: Collective Memory and Counter-histories,” in The Palgrave Handbook on Rethinking Colonial Commemorations (2023), and “Redefining the Colonial: An Afrofuturist Analysis of Wakanda and Speculative Fiction,” in Journal of Futures Studies, (Dec. 2019).


Desert View Cemetery in Winslow is the resting place for Blacks, Native Americans, Mexican Americans and many others--it is a multiracial cemetery that epitomizes the multi-racial, intercultural background of the city; which has always reflected a great degree of inclusion and empowerment for marginalized racial groups who have found a home in Winslow. Ms. Cleo Wilson Murdoch was a fugitive from the Jim Crow South, who migrated to the city as a child, adopted by her uncle, George Hartman, and his wife. Hartman came to the city to work on the railroads, and Ms. Cleo's husband was also listed in census reports as a railroad man. Thus, finding her resting place in Winslow's cemetery was a process of loving care and compassion--how do we honor those who came before us? How do cemeteries and other "sacred sites" recognize what lies beneath, once a life has been lived? Desert View is the meeting ground, along Historic Route 66, for multicultural longing and belongings in a city that cherished both.

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