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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

Archeologists and historians were digging for unmarked slave graves in a cemetery in Orange Mound

People living in Orange Mound turned out Thursday to learn what the past might mean for the future of their community.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – People living in Orange Mound turned out Thursday to learn what the past might mean for the future of their community.

Thanks to a limited archeological dig at an old cemetery, supporters hope will offer a new perspective on the area’s history. Orange Mound is one of Memphis’ great neighborhoods working to maintain its long and rich history, which makes it part of the Memphis Historical Trail.

Those who remember Deaderick Family Cemetery know there’s much more to it than we see today.

Cynthia Sadler, a historian with the Memphis Heritage Trail, says people who grew up in the Orange Mound, the first neighborhood in the United States built for African Americans, remember a much larger Deaderick Cemetery spanning beyond park, back to Saratoga and over to Grand Streets.

“In the 1940s, 50s & 60s they recall as children walking quickly past this cemetery,” says Sadler.

Today, you might miss the cemetery if you blink. Once the Deaderick Plantation, there had been no physical evidence of the 54 enslaved African Americans believed to buried here ages one month to 60 years old.

“When they put up this wrought iron fence the were really trying to preserve the “white bodies’ that are interred here,” said Sadler.

Guy Weaver is an archeologist conducting tests and says one grave found outside the cemetery gates indicates there maybe more.

“That pretty much confirms community memories that they’re graves outside and in all likelihood they extend over a much larger area,” said Weaver.

“This adds another layer to Memphis history, and it expands the narrative of how we tell stories about our ancestors,” said Sadler.

More tests are planned this spring with plans to erect a second historical marker.  

“We want to put another marker that defines or acknowledges this space as a resting space for probably hundreds of people we don’t know about,” said Sadler.