Mississippi Cemetery Crews Find 119 Unmarked Graves of Enslaved Africans During Maintenance Work

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Crews working at the Red Banks Cemetery in Marshall County, Mississippi, came across a shocking discovery last week while trying to get drainage and roadwork done at the local graveyard.

It was there that they stumbled upon the unmarked graves of 119 enslaved African-Americans. Ralph Farrell, an official with the Red Banks Cemetery Association, recalled the moment they made the “incredible” find.

Slave graves found at Red Banks Cemetery
The Red Banks Cemetery is now dotted with bright orange flags marking the graves of enslaved African-Americans. (Photo: FOX 13 / video cemetery.

“I guess I was expecting maybe probably ten or 15 … maybe 20 at the most,” he told FOX 13 Memphis. “But as he was going, he kept finding another and another and another. “Honestly, I just stopped and prayed.”

Farrell explained that the association paid $900 to have the cemetery, which dates back to 1848, mapped out with advanced radar technology to see what lies underneath the surface. He said there was an unmarked area they were told where the remains of enslaved workers had been buried, however, they only expected to find a few — not over a hundred.

Now, Farrell says he’s on a mission to learn who exactly is buried there. A small orange flag now marks the spot for each plot.

“I prayed for these people, not knowing who they are and my quest is getting or finding the names, so we can honor these people,” he told the outlet.

The new discovery means a few changes for the cemetery. For one, the entrance has to be relocated because the current one has graves under it.

Farrell said the association is now considering calling in help from the Mississippi department of archives and history to help identify those buried there. He also said they’re thinking of erecting a monument in their honor.

“With this area right here, I just took it to heart that it gets done and these people and their loved ones are honored,” Farrell added.

Just last month, a similar discovery was made in Florida where more than 120 coffins were discovered at what’s believed to be the first burial ground for African-Americans in the city of Tampa. 

Watch more in the video below.

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