Volunteers finish clearing historic African American Cemetery lost in woods

Source: Live 5
Updated: Apr. 17, 2021 at 11:27 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Saturday, dozens of volunteers worked to finish clearing out a once-forgotten African American cemetery in Charleston.

“This is a beautiful work, and there’s a spirit here of joy that everybody feels in accomplishing this work,” Dr. David Goltra with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said.

Around 50 to 60 volunteers spent today finishing up clearing out the cemeteries of historic Morris Street Baptist Church and Union Baptist Church which was lost under thick woods for decades.

“Those stories have been lost and we can recover those kinds of stories that are a part of our history and help to bring people together,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said.

It’s all a part of a larger effort between Charleston City, the Gullah Society, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and other groups to uncover and restore dozens of African American cemeteries across the city.

Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds also attended Saturday’s cleanup.

“We need to show up, we need to show our support, we need to be engaged, be involved. We need to roll our sleeves up and help others and this is a great example,” Reynolds said. “We need to find a reason to unify, to work together and this is a symbol of that.”

Members of the new International African American Museum say the cemetery projects will help their research for years to come.

“There are colored troops in this graveyard,” Reverend Demett Jenkins with IAAM said. “As a part of our museum at the Center for family history, we are looking for our colored troops that are that are unknown and have been missing so this is an essential piece to a museum in the work that we’re doing with genealogy research.”

Since launching the program last month, the Gullah Society has received just over $1,600 in public donations.

People can donate to the project online here.

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