Black History Month: Uncovering the history of unmarked slave graves at UAH

Black History Month: Learn more on the history of unmarked slave graves across Huntsville
Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 5:27 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - In honor of Black History Month, we are taking a deeper look at the History of the University of Alabama in Huntsville and unmarked slave graves that are believed to be somewhere on the campus.

The campus of the University of Alabama in Huntsville once was home to one of the south’s largest cotton plantations. In 1820, Revolutionary War Veteran Lewellen Jones purchased the plantation according to senior undergraduate UAH history student Emily Therrell.

“Lewellen owned 20 slaves at the time of purchase who moved here with him and then after his death his son Alexander Pickney Jones took over for the next 45 years,” said Therrell.

Therrell said the slave population grew from 20 to 121 by the end of the Civil War, and many lived in houses and worked where UAH now stands.

The Jones Perkins Family Cemetery is located behind Morton Hall, but there is no historical marker for it. In 2017, between Roberts Hall, the Nursing School, and the Jones Perkins Family Cemetery, is where archeologists used ground-penetrating radar to detect if slave houses were built on the campus.

“They found animals bones, glass bricks, a horseshoe related to stable keeping, and so they found a lot of things that did indicate the house was in that location,” said Therrell.

But just south of the university on Ben Graves Drive is where archeologists detected a possibility of about 60 graves.

“The best that could kind of be found was areas with a lot of greenery and a lack of structures; however, there are no markers,” said Therrell.

“I feel like these stories need to be told, and that there shouldn’t be so much erasure. It’s not that UAH tries to hide it, but they don’t acknowledge it.”

To help raise awareness about the plantation and slave graves, the UAH history department has established a committee to erect historical monuments to commemorate those who worked and lived on land.

A fund has also been created to help with additional research and donations.

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