FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — More than 50 untold stories of formerly enslaved people rest at the East Mountain Cemetery in Fayetteville.
The NWA Black Heritage Association is working to revitalize the cemetery and unearth the stories. Co-Founder Sharon Killian said the group is working to make the area a historical site.
“I want a learning park here so that we can be truthful about who we are and what we’ve done and what we want to achieve,” Killian said.
Sally is one of the former enslaved who is buried in the cemetery. Killian said Sally’s missing last name and the fact she has no family buried nearby means she was a former slave.
“We’ve done some work and some research and we believe that Sally belonged to David Walker,” Killian said.
The cemetery was formerly known as the Walker Cemetery because of former Senator David Walker’s family plot. Killian said the difference between Walker’s family graves and those belonging to the former enslaved is stark.
“There are relationships here that reflect our current culture,” Killian said.
Most of the slaves’ gravesites are situated behind the Walker family plot.
“It’s typical of some slave owners cemeteries to bury their, the people that they owned just outside of their plot,” Killian said.
Killian said the cemetery still needs a lot of care as erosion is taking over part of the area. Killian said the ice storm of 2009 also caused a lot of damage that the association is working to correct. NWA Black Heritage Association is also working with the University of Arkansas to preserve the grounds.
Killian said she wants everyone to be able to visit the cemetery and learn the history themselves.
“I want the people to learn about themselves here, black and white people and other people who lived here,” Killian said.
NWA Black Heritage is partnering with Let’s Talk NWA and other community partners to host a Juneteenth celebration in Fayetteville Sunday. You can learn more about the event here.