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Gainesville commemorates African Americans buried in previously unmarked graves

Gainesville commemorates African Americans buried in previously unmarked graves

In the segregated cemetery in Alta Vista, GA, lie 1,146 African Americans in unmarked graves. Although there is little to no information about the people buried there, the bodies are thought to date from the 1870s to the 1950s. Alta Vista was desegregated in the 1960s. While friends and families marked some graves with piles of stones or wooden crosses, the majority had no memorial markers at all. Officials began the project of rectifying this in 2015, after the shooting of nine church goers in Charleston, SC. Initially, they identified 200 graves, but using ground-penetrating radar, they eventually found over a thousand. As the grave sites were identified, they were marked with silver medallions. On Friday, a further memorial was unveiled to commemorate those unidentified bodies. The monument is a black obelisk, inscribed, “this memorial stands as our testament that these citizens are important to this community and we embrace them as our own.” Flags were also placed on the graves to mark the locations. Barbara Brooks, Gainesville’s only African-American city council member, led the project, and said of Friday’s ceremony, “to me, it’s an opportunity to say, ‘Okay, we don’t know who you were and we don’t know when you were here but you’re important to us.'”

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