A Tennessee Community Is Working Towards Restoring a Neglected Cemetery Full of Black Heroes
The Benevolent Cemetery is an eight-acre plot of land with 320 marked graves. The last burial here took place in 2002, and since then, the grounds have fallen into disrepair.
Tucked away next to an Enterprise Rent-A-Car is a cemetery that has served the Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Black community since 1887.
"There are soldiers from the Spanish American War and every war in between," Margaret McKinley from the African American Heritage Society explains. "And there is even a documented Vietnam veteran here."
"A lot of people don't know this place exists."
The Benevolent Cemetery is an eight-acre plot of land with 320 marked graves.
"It was segregated," McKinley states. "So all the African Americans were buried here."
The deceased residents of the Benevolent Cemetery saw the American Civil War and Reconstruction, lived through the injustices of the Jim Crow South, and marched in the Civil Rights Movement.
The last burial here took place in 2002, and since then, the grounds have fallen into disrepair.
"We owe it to the people that are here," Mary Watkins from the African American Heritage Society said. "We want these people to know that they are gone, but we haven't forgotten them."
The African American Heritage Society of Rutherford County has preserved this history for years and secured a Tennessee Historical Commission marker for the Benevolent Cemetery.
And now, with recent help from graduate students at Middle Tennessee State University's Center for Historic Preservation, the cemetery will be considered for the National Register of Historic Places.
This will give the difficult-to-find cemetery and its long history the attention they deserve
If approved, the African American Historical Society hopes the Benevolent Cemetery will receive the funding it needs for a complete restoration.
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