Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial Project Awards Contract to Sculptor

Apr 9, 2018

The Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial sculpture is being created by artist Ayokunle Odeleye.
Credit Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial

A Kentucky project to create a memorial to recognize slaves buried in unmarked graves has taken an important step to becoming a reality. Work has begun on the sculpture that will be on the grounds of Somerset Community College.

It’s been nearly three years since a young white man fatally shot nine African-Americans during a Bible study at a Charleston, South Carolina church known as Mother Emanuel.

That massacre spurred a group of Lake Cumberland area residents to launch a project to help create more understanding in their community and state.

They first found out that a section of the Somerset City Cemetery has slaves buried in unmarked graves, and then they heard about other similar sites.

Charles Leveridge is a board member of the Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial. He says the research, fundraising, drawings and collaboration with Somerset Community College have reached the point of making the memorial a reality. 

“We have signed the contract with the artist, Ayokunle Odeleye, down in Georgia and work is underway for the sculpture and we fully plan on that to be on site by early next year.”

The group is continuing to its efforts to discover additional cemeteries where slaves are buried in unmarked graves.

Leveridge says the group will begin planning a memorial garden at the site.                  

"We are currently looking for a landscape architect that can develop the concept drawings for what the courtyard would look like. Once we select that, it will be another phase, essentially phase two of the whole project.”

The third phase will be an educational curriculum available to area schools that’s expected to include information on the history of slavery in the region and the contributions of slaves to the development of the area.