CLEMSON, S.C. (CNN Newsource) – Over 200 unmarked graves of slaves have been found on the campus of Clemson University.
Clemson’s Woodland Cemetery sits in the shadows of Death Valley. Behind Memorial Stadium sits a previously unknown burial site dating back to the 1800s.
“Now that we know that there are more burials here, we certainly have a responsibility for making sure that the people who helped build the university, the people whose labor kept the Fort Hill Plantation going, we cannot, not honor them because we are indebted to Black labor for the existence of Clemson university,” Rhondda Thomas, Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature said.
The discovery came as Clemson researchers were preparing to honor the graves in Fort Hill Slave and Convict Cemetery. The university’s historian says they used ground penetrating radar, or GPR technology, which unearthed the hidden graves.
“In the midst of that process we began finding field stones which are the traditional markers of African American burials, and they were not just here in the fence, they extended all the way out to about three acres,” Paul Anderson, Clemson University Historian and professor said.
Anderson says the scan found more than 200 potential grave sites in the cemetery and additional graves believed to be underneath a walking path.
“We know were going to find more,” Anderson said. “The documentary records suggest oral history, which has as many as 250 African Americans buried here. Most of them are likely to be former slaves.”
The university says the top priority is finding a way to honor their lives and give a voice to the African Americans buried in the cemetery. Clemson has hired a historian to lead the research and document what they find. All findings will be posted online.