Community members come together to stop expansion on an old slave cemetery. It's happening in Waynesboro on Sixth Street near Liberty Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard which is about 45 minutes from downtown Augusta. Dee Griffin went to Waynesboro for more on the fight to stop expansion.
Back in the 1960s, graves were moved to make way for swings, benches and basketball courts. But, turns out, some of the graves were left behind. Now, the community has come before city council to bury any plans for expansion on the land.
The play area is the result of more than thirty years of work by African American leaders in Waynesboro. Once a cemetery housing dead slaves, the leaders saw it as a way to bring alive activity for local black children. Carol Jones of the Burke County Genealogical and Historical Society explains, "we were able to find that in the old city council minute books even back in 1914, 1931 and 1963 different groups came forward to city council and asked to use that land for a park for children and city council reluctantly agreed."
According to a map from the early 1900s, the African American cemetery was on a large plot of land located on Sixth Street right next to what's now known as the Confederate Cemetery. No one knows how many bodies were buried in the old slave cemetery. But after gaining approval from city council, African American community members started working on plans for new use of the old land.
Years ago, Emma Williams spoke with a man who remembers the graves being take to Pine Cemetery. But he said not everyone made the move. Williams explains, "the cemetery had been excavated and that they person who did the excavation project was not really skilled in doing that type work and that all of the bodies were not moved."
Now, fifty years later, the community has stepped up to make sure the remaining graves are not in jeopardy of being disturbed. Group leaders recently went to city council in an effort to block any plans for park expansion.
It's a long overdue effort to preserve a piece of history that is gone but is not forgotten. "I think they were just trying to do something positive for the community and not do anything that would be disrespectful to the people buried there," says Jones.
There are now discussions about putting historical markers in the park.
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