Are more Black families choosing cremation over traditional burials?

Since the start of the pandemic, Tito Truesdale and his staff at House of Rosedale Funeral Home have had to adjust to the increased death rate, hosting over 10 funerals a week, this year alone.

Truesdale, with over four decades of funeral business experience, knows it’s important to always re-up his stock of caskets for traditional burials but recently, urns have become high in demand – though they were rarely requested only a few years ago.

“Since the pandemic, [cremation] has increased 30%,” he told QCity Metro.

House of Rosedale is one of many funeral homes that are seeing more families of color choosing cremation over traditional burial. 

In 2020 – a year where more than 350,000 Americans died, according to the CDC – cremations were the most common form of final disposition with a rate of 56 percent, more than double the figure of 27 percent two decades earlier, according to the Cremation Association of North America (CANA).

Statista, a market and consumer data site, projects that by 2030 over 70% of Americans will choose cremation over casket burial. (CANA nor Statista track burials or cremations by race)

In North Carolina, the cremation rate is at 53.2%, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

Finances have been a growing concern for many families who have ultimately gone the cremation route, Truesdale said.

The demand for funerals has grown, causing an increase in funeral services, casket costs, and cemetery prices.

“Some families can afford the funeral but they can’t afford the cemetery,” he said. “Cemeteries are anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 a burial. That’s not counting what they are paying for the funeral.”

Like Truesdale, Alfred Alexander, the president of Alexander Funeral Homes, attributes the increase in cremation to finances. Alexander points out most cemeteries request money upfront instead of offering payment options.

“Cemeteries want their money from families immediately which means a lot of times we lost out on trying to get money from families,” he said.

Alexander Funeral Home has been serving the Charlotte and greater Charlotte community since 1914 and is one of the first to offer cremation in the area.

Alexander said he remembers putting cremation advertisements in the local phone book in the late 1970s with very little draw from the public.

“It was kinda hard to even get our folks [Black people] to talk about it or want to do it because it was unheard of,” he said.

When they first started offering the service, cremation requests were about a one percent to two percent blip. Now, it’s up 60 to 80 percent, he said.

For Palmer Dupree, director of Long and Son Mortuary Services, traditional burials are still his top provided service. His cremation rate is as low as 15% compared to others.

The pandemic caused a temporary increase in cremation at Long and Son Mortuary Services as many families were unsure whether the virus could still spread among those who are deceased.

Now, Dupree said, most of the cremations he has performed have come at the request of the individuals before they have died instead of financial concerns.

“Some are saying that they don’t want the family to continue to grieve that part of seeing their loved one [in a casket],” he said. “It’s easier as far as having cremation opposed to walking in a church or funeral home and seeing the remains there.”

He isn’t surprised that numbers have ballooned at other funerals homes as he has seen the trends grow in other parts of the country.

“If you start out on the west coast, cremation is a growing thing out there as far as services. So it was eventually time for it to get all the way on this side of the country,” he said.

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