SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Residents of the Welwood Subdivision in the Windsor Forest of the south side and several aldermen are expressing outrage over the possible rezoning of a plot of land that is known among the community to be a slave cemetery, located in the subdivision at 0 Merrydell Dr.
The land has been purchased by the Savannah Country Day School, which borders it. Alderwoman Alicia Miller Blakely says the cemetery needs to be preserved.
“Our African American enslaved people — the land that they’ve been laid to rest, has been desecrated,” says Miller Blakely.
Miller Blakely has helped uncover the history behind the plot of land, but most of the research has been done by a woman named Marla Perry and her husband who live next to the cemetery.
“We talked to descendants from John Israel Hinley, have his will, and neighborhood residents who state this was once a slave graveyard, and there was once a praise house on it,” says Perry.
With letters, a will, and deeds from a former land owner, John Israel Hinley, and accounts from neighbors, she says Perry can prove the land’s true history. Now she and Blakely are leading the charge to save it from impending rezoning.
“I would love to see this turned into a historical landmark because history is not just downtown, it’s on the south side too,” says Perry.
Blakely echoes the same sentiment, telling News 3 the cemetery is an important part of the south side’s history and something the city should preserve.
“The city of Savannah focuses on the history of downtown, they don’t focus on the history here on the south side, which has a really rich history,” says Miller Blakely.
The act of rezoning needs to pass a vote from the city council in order to happen, which has been tabled since January.
Miller Blakley and Alderman Kurtis Purtee tell News 3 they will not support it.
Purtee sent News 3 the following statement:
“I’m working with a City Attorney, Savannah Country Day School, and city staff so that it’s adequately researched in order to figure out the best solution. We certainly don’t want to have any development on a sacred historic site. This will be an ongoing conversation.”