Dusting off headstones, uncovering ancestry sitting below one Lowcountry cemetery’s surface

Charleston County News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – For almost 60 years, the Morris Street Baptist Church Cemetery has been untouched. A recent restoration project revealed that it dates back centuries, with the discovery of gravestones belonging to runaway slaves and Civil War soldiers.

“They were a part of 177,000+ African Americans that made up the United States Colors Troops which was basically 1/10 of the Union army,” says Grant Mishoe, a Forensic Historian and Genealogist for the Gullah society.

Now, experts say the clean-up is helping people research their genealogy here in the Lowcountry.

Officials at the International African American Museum say they are dedicating a whole wing to those wanting to trace their roots.

“The International African American Museum is really collaborating together to make sure these cemeteries get cleaned up and the people get identified so this cemetery gets restored,” says Reverend Demett Jenkins, Director of Education and Engagement for Faith Communities.

The community-wide effort to preserve Lowcountry history has drawn support from public figures of all sectors. Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds says this project is important to everyone in the Holy City.

“It’s a symbol of the City of Charleston people unifying around a really important cause and that is to preserve the African American history of this cemetery and to learn more about the history,” Chief Reynolds says.

Names that were discovered on headstones will be revealed at the International African American Museum when it opens next year.

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