GALLATIN, Tenn. (WKRN) — The City of Gallatin unveiled a monument Monday honoring the more than 500 unmarked graves of African Americans buried in the back of the Gallatin City Cemetery.
The stone monument is topped with the star from the Juneteenth flag to recognize the former slaves buried in the cemetery. The inscription on the monument is included below:
Resting in Peace, known only to God. We dedicate this monument with highest regard. This monument is erected on behalf of more than 500 African Americans buried here. May they find eternal peace.
The cemetery, founded in 1814, was segregated, so Black residents were buried in the back. Most burials were marked with a stone or wooden object without inscriptions, according to the city.
Officials said more than 500 unmarked grave sites were discovered using ground-penetrating radar, which was paid for with a $15,000 donation from the Volunteer State Bank.
When historian, author, and retired Sumner County educator Velma Brinkley heard about the project, she knew she had to get involved.
“To be very honest, I like to get involved so that I can personally see to it that the project is done within the law and according to what is respectful and appropriate for those individuals,” Brinkley said. “When we know better, we should do better, and when we come into the knowledge that there are unmarked graves, they are to be treated with dignity and respect.”
Brinkley told News 2 it’s important to acknowledge the lives of those buried without markers.
“They are indeed beloved,” Brinkley said. “We simply don’t know the names, but we know that they are there, and we are acknowledging that they are here, and at this point in history, that is the best that we can do.”
Officials bought the monument using leftover funds from the $15,000 donation from the Volunteer State Bank, as well as money from Sumner Funeral and Cremation and the City of Gallatin.
The Friends of the Gallatin City Cemetery volunteer to maintain and restore the cemetery. If you’d like to get involved, contact Jeff Hentschel in the Office of the Mayor at 615-451-5961.