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Possible Slave Grave

By: Marise Estime
By: Marise Estime

Graves are found on the plot of land where Gadsden County wants to build a new high school. The gravesite is believed to be of slaves and their owners. An Orlando company hired to research those claims found eight graves on the proposed site.

John Kelly remembers it like it was yesterday; he says in the early 1970s he was hired to remove headstones from graves on the picturesque 80-acre site.

"We use to come around here and come across the field and come across the gravesite, but then he had us digging them up and we started planting sod and corn," said Kelly.

School Board officials purchased the property to build the new West Gadsden High School, but underneath the red clay lay the graves of several Gadsden County residents thought to be slaves.

After learning about the graves, school officials hired an Orlando company to thoroughly investigate those claims and discovered eight graves on the property, but whether they're actually slave graves remains a mystery.

Now, school officials are looking for an alternative location.

"I have moral ethical issues with excavation of graves. It’s something I feel we don't need to do as a public body and so we are going to move to different site all together," said Gadsden County School Superintendent Reginal James.

Members of the Gadsden branch of the NAACP are trying to make sure no one disturbs the land or the graves.

"As NAACP we want to preserve our historical sites. As we did our investigation, some of these graves went back as far as 1920s to early 1900, so that would deem them as a historical site," said the Gadsden branch of the NAACP president, Sam Hawkins.

For now, the search continues for the ideal site to build a premiere school for students in the rural community. The superintendent is looking at two sites, but will not disclose the locations.


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