The words of George Moses Horton or William Shakespeare might adorn the redesigned monument to the African-Americans buried in unmarked graves in the Chapel Hill Cemetery.
Members of the Chapel Hill Town Council met with community members and representatives from the town’s cemetery advisory committee Tuesday to discuss changes to the monument and details of a public unveiling ceremony tentatively planned for Sept. 18.
After the previous monument, which was installed Feb. 2, received criticism from the public for not having a public dedication and for its placement being largely unnoticed, the piece was removed so the Town could hear input from the public.
The monument was also criticized for having too modern a design for the cemetery and because some felt the words inscribed on it — “Here rest in honored glory 361 American persons of color known but to God” — did not properly honor the 361 African-Americans buried in unmarked graves in the cemetery.
“I think we all had the consensus that it’s not so much the wording that was on the monument but the lack of community involvement,” said the Rev. Robert Campbell, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP.
He said a new community group working on the monument met three times and concluded that a service ought to take place in the fall, which would involve community members as well as university students, staff and administrators.
The group also proposed designing informational tables that would accompany the monument and give historical context about the cemetery’s segregated history, including a timeline.
“Out of those meetings, we all had homework to go back and find more information about the cemetery and the families that are the descendents of those who are in the cemetery, and how to connect those together so we can hear their voices,” Campbell said.
“We began to understand there was more interest in the old cemetery as far as recognizing and identifying who was there.”