History Chat: Red Hill Cemetery Project

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

History Chat: Red Hill Cemetery Project

#An Unsolved Mystery

Located on a small ridge of red clay in Waycross, Georgia, is a five-acre piece of history called the Red Hill Cemetery. With graves obscured by underbrush and headstones destroyed by vandalism, the cemetery is the keeper of a real modern-day mystery: Who is buried there?

What is known is that the cemetery was used from the early 1800s to the 1960s by area African-American churches. Now researchers are working to locate the graves and determine the identities of the dead without excavation to preserve the sanctity of the site.

#JOIN

History Chat: Red Hill Cemetery Project on Tuesday, December 5 at 7 p.m. at Highlands Regional Library. An audience Q&A session will follow the lecture.

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#ABOUT

The Red Hill Cemetery Project documents an African American Cemetery in Waycross Georgia with more than 1000 burials dating from the late nineteen century. Researchers from UNF and the Okefenokee Heritage Center are documenting the site, digitizing death certificates, collecting oral histories, and scanning additional documents (photographs, funeral home records, etc). 

Dr. David Sheffler, associate professor of history, who is heading the research, said the project began with a phone call from the director of the Okefenokee Heritage Center in Waycross, who was looking to partner with an academic institution to help document the cemetery. Ideally, Sheffler and the other researchers would like to develop a database and website that would allow online visitors to click on specific gravesites to learn the names of the deceased as well as some information about them.

“We’ve already pulled in professors from anthropology, archaeology, English and history as well as students to begin photographing, surveying and mapping the cemetery,” Sheffler said. “The project offers many learning opportunities — oral history, writing projects, documentaries and archival research — as well as a chance for students to contribute information that will memorialize those buried there. I would like to see the project build over time, and possibly be incorporated into our undergraduate curriculum." — Dr. Sheffler

The project is multi-disciplinary and includes contributors from Archaeology, History, and Geography. UNF professors David Sheffler, Felicia Bevel, and Michael Boyles will speak about the project and its importance to local history.


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