Community works to restore African-American cemetery
SOUTHPORT, N.C. (WWAY) — One group in Southport is working to restore and repair a African-American cemetery that has been around for centuries.
“My view of it is that it takes a community to save a cemetery,” said Gordon Walker, who has been working with the John N. Smith Restoration and Preservation Inc. for four years.
The group has been raising money to repair and restore the cemetery. Walker says there are about 1,500 people buried at the site, but there are less than 300 hundred markers.
“And so it was a recognition that something really needed to be done to, one – make the area safe for people, but also be able to identify if there was any location for new burials to occur,” said Walker.
But most importantly, Walker wants to preserve the history behind the cemetery and those who are buried there.
“I’ve always been somebody who believes black history of communities, if it’s told at all, isn’t told told correctly,” said Walker.
Walker says the cemetery contains the graves of major public figures in Southport, so he wants the community to know about their city’s history. Walker is joined by a diverse group of people in Southport who have been dedicated to this project.
“I realized ‘Oh my goodness, I live a block and a half away from there. I’ve been driving by it everyday and had no idea the significance of that,'” Ellie DeYoung said.
DeYoung joined the group about a year after Walker. She has helped the group raise about $20,000 so far and they hope to double that amount.
Not only do they want to beautify the cemetery, but they also want to create a better understanding of the African-American contribution to the city through the years.
“The community, once it’s known about the black cemetery, has really rallied in a way that has been really supportive of our efforts,” said Walker.
With all hands on deck, Walker and DeYoung hope to change the way people see the city’s history.