CADIZ, Ky. (AP) — A memorial was unveiled at East End Cemetery in Cadiz to recognize the estimated 200 African-Americans who were buried there in unmarked graves between the mid-1860s and World War II.
The land for the cemetery was bought by the city of Cadiz around 1866, said Paul Fourshee, chairman of the African-American Memorial Committee, which planned and raised the funds for the memorial. Before that, the land was part of a large farm.
"The city was formed in 1820 and the city limits were way down toward like where the Bank of Cadiz is now and so, where the cemetery is now was out in the country," Fourshee said. "There was a farm there and there was a family graveyard there that was very small. But as the city began to grow, the city bought five acres from this farm, which included the little family graveyard, and they bought it for the purpose of making a cemetery."
Along with the family’s plot, which was included in the land purchase, there were several unmarked graves of slaves who had worked on that farm.
"When the city bought (the cemetery), they continued to bury African-Americans there even though slavery was over, and they continued to bury African-Americans there until about World War II," Fourshee said. "However, there are only about four markers for African-Americans but there are probably — a conservative estimate — about 200 African-American graves there and they’re not marked."
Fourshee said it had been known in the community for some time that there was a large section in the middle of the cemetery that looks like it has no graves, "but tradition has always told us that there were African-Americans buried here."
Fourshee and Cadiz Mayor Lyn Bailey started talking about what they could do to acknowledge those with no headstones. Together, they formed a committee within the Cadiz Renaissance Committee to sort through death certificates and historical documents and find out who has been buried in those unmarked plots. Then they planned the memorial and started raising money.
On Saturday, to the tune of soulful songs sung by the Cadiz Community Choir, a 6-foot granite memorial was unveiled bearing the 55 names of the people the committee was able to find death records for.
"The monument is for all of the unmarked (graves of) African-Americans in the cemetery, but we could only list the names that we knew," Fourshee said. "And then we have space and money set aside if someone later on says, ‘I know grandma is buried there,’ then we’ll accept family tradition and we will add those names."
Several speakers shared their thoughts at the memorial service and after, people gathered around the memorial to review the names.
One such woman was Betty Crump-Roach, who pointed out the name Susie Bell Crump.
"I’m a Crump and her name is Crump so I know we have to be related," she said. "This is my home, this is where I come from, so the lady, Susie Bell Crump, must be a relation."
Roach pointed out several other names that were tied to her lineage as well and said seeing their names there meant a lot to her.
"I think it’s wonderful," she said. "It is just magnificent. When I heard about it, I just had a fit. It’s something that I never thought I would see, but I see it now and I’m proud."
Fourshee said the memorial was just one part of an ongoing project to uncover the names and the history of the people who were buried in that unmarked section.
"This is really a big deal," Fourshee said. "These people were a part of this community, and it’s important we acknowledge them."
Information from: Kentucky New Era, http://www.kentuckynewera.com
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