Somerset Group Creating Memorial for Slaves in Unmarked Graves

Dec 28, 2016

The Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial has been designed by artist Ayokunle Odeleye of Atlanta, Georgia. The 20-foot tall stainless steel sculpture will be erected on the campus of Somerset Community College.
Credit Somerset Community College

A discovery during a sunrise service in the Somerset City Cemetery has led to the creation of a memorial for slaves buried in unmarked graves. 

Charles Leveridge is president of the Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial Association. He said a section of the city cemetery that was thought to be unused is actually an unmarked burial site for area slaves. He said the original plan was to place a marker in that one cemetery, but the group is now focused on a bigger mission.

“The more we researched the issue, the more we found that there were numerous cemeteries throughout Pulaski County, and surrounding counties around Lake Cumberland, that have slaves interred that have no markers,” said Leveridge.

The group now has a design for a memorial sculpture designed by an Atlanta artist that will be located at Somerset Community College. The artist will be a guest at a unity breakfast at the college on Jan. 13, in advance of Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 16. 

The Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial Association was launched as a result of the massacre in a Charleston, South Carolina church, where a young white man shot and killed nine African-Americans during a Bible study.

Leveridge  said one purpose of the Lake Cumberland area the group is to emphasize that every person should be treated with dignity and respect. 

“We cannot find where there is a memorial of any sort, anywhere in the United States, that is specifically dedicated to those enslaved Americans that have no markers. We just consider them part of the forgotten.”

He said says memorializing slaves who helped build this country, but were buried in unmarked graves, is one step toward honoring the value of every American.