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The Voice of the Black Community

Local & State

Community pitches in for historic cemetery
Salisbury aids Dixonville-Lincoln Memorial Project
 
Published Thursday, June 21, 2018 10:05 am
by Herbert L. White

PHOTO | CITY OF SALISBURY
A street marker beside Dixonville Cemetery in Salisbury.

An historic African-American cemetery is getting a new lease on life.


Salisbury’s Dixonville-Lincoln Memorial Project broke ground for construction of a project to recognize the burial ground’s history, which predates the Civil War. Dixonville was the first city-owned cemetery for blacks, and as late as the 1960s was the centerpiece of the Dixonville neighborhood, providing a well-worn pathway for students who walked to the nearby Lincoln Elementary School. Construction on the first phase of the $570,000 project is expected to finish in July.


“A lot of students had to go through that cemetery to get to Lincoln School,” said Emily Perry, who grew up in the East Salisbury neighborhood and chair of the Dixonville-Lincoln Memorial Task Force. “That community was a very close-knit, tight neighborhood. When I say tight, I mean really, really tight.”


The memorial project is a three-phase initiative consisting of a memorial walk and granite steps in front of the cemetery, an interpretive walk where visitors can gather as a quiet space and a proposed revitalization of the Lincoln School.


The initiative has earned grants from the city of Salisbury, National Society of the Colonial Dames of North Carolina, Blanche and Julian Robertson Family Foundation, and Margaret C. Woodson Foundation, as well as individual contributions in the African American community. The Task Force, formed in 2010 by former Salisbury mayor Susan Kluttz, has raised $237,846 through May.


“I cannot thank the Salisbury community enough,” Perry said. “People in the community, a number of these people no longer live here and live in other parts of the United States, but once we sent out letters and knew what we were doing, they were interested in sending contributions and donations. We still have donations coming in. It’s a real community effort.”


The task force has made basic repairs to gravestones, installed a historical sign, restored the foot path from Old Concord Road to Lincoln School, and installed a seating area in memory of Fred Evans, a former Dixonville resident and task force Chair. Memorial tributes to task force members William Peoples and Floyd Kerr III were also included. Landscape architects Chris Harrison and Lynn Raker designed the memorial.

According to Salisbury historian Betty Dan Spencer, there were nearly 500 documented burials at the cemetery, which was bought by the city in 1874. The oldest known gravesite is that of Mary Valentine, who died in 1851. Other prominent local residents buried there include Bishop John Jamison Moore, who founded the AME Zion Church in western North Carolina, and the Rev. Harry Cowan, who from slavery to launching 49 churches and baptizing 8,500 people. Although many of the grave markers have disappeared, Dixonville Cemetery is a strong link to Salisbury’s history.


“When urban renewal came through in the mid- to late ‘60s, people had to move because they bulldozed the houses,” Perry said. “Some of those houses were dilapidated, but some of them were nice homes, so that meant you had to move a whole generation of folks from the Eastside, so we have to be careful about what we do when we start moving people and gentrification and all that takes place.


“It’s very near and dear to preserve the history.”

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