The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday January 31st

Town seeks input on new cemetery marker

(Left) Steve Moore, Jane Slater, Mary Hayes, Sanley Peele, and Maria Palmer discuss a removed memorial during the Cemetery Advisory Board Meeting Wednesday.
Buy Photos (Left) Steve Moore, Jane Slater, Mary Hayes, Sanley Peele, and Maria Palmer discuss a removed memorial during the Cemetery Advisory Board Meeting Wednesday.

The monument was installed Feb. 4 to honor the 361 African Americans buried in unmarked graves in the historically black section of the previously segregated cemetery.

The marker was removed following complaints regarding the marker’s slogan and the lack of a dedication ceremony for its placement.

Town council members and advisory board members were not involved in the decision to remove the marker. Jane Slater, an advisory board member, said the board was not notified about any of the public complaints surrounding its installation.

“The unmarked graves have been talked about for so many years,” Slater said. “It’s really sad that the one thing that’s finally been done is now sitting in a warehouse somewhere.”

Hemminger said there was confusion surrounding the authorization of the marker. Although the monument’s installation was unanimously approved by the advisory board at its meeting Dec. 9, the issue was never brought to the town council.

She said the decision to remove the marker was motivated by a desire to open the marker’s installation to the greater community.

“We had a number of people who called in and never saw the marker on the town’s agenda, and felt like they didn’t have a chance to provide input on that level,” she said.

In addition to a lack of transparency regarding the decision, town council member Maria Palmer said the confusion surrounding the monument was largely due to a misunderstanding of the marker’s intent.

“The confusion was, in part, that we thought we were doing one thing, and the town perceived it as making a statement about civil rights, about lots of things that we didn’t mean to do,” she said.

Rev. Robert Campbell, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, said one of the primary complaints against the monument was not against its slogan, but about how the community it sought to bring closure to was not a part of the discussion.

“A monument without a story of the people it is for is not hearing the story,” Campbell said. “It’s just a plain rock.”

Campbell said the motives behind the marker were good, but now it’s important community members and leaders come to a resolution regarding the monument’s wording and dedication.

Hemminger said the plan is to organize public meetings in the coming months to encourage input from the community. She said her goal is to have a decision regarding the marker made by May.

city@dailytarheel.com



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