In an old cemetery accessible from a health center parking lot lies the remains of some of the unsung people who built Pulaski County: its slaves.
The descendants of those slaves have no way to honor them, but a group of Pulaski County residents wants to.
The slaves are buried here and at several other sites in Pulaski County, including the Somerset Cemetery and at Mill Springs in Nancy, but there are no markers for them.
There might be thousands of slave graves in the area. An 1850 census reported more than 1,400 slaves in Pulaski County. One slave owner had 48 slaves, and another 45, according to local historian Sandra Brans.
The Sinking Creek cemetery near the health center has a few markers some have crumbled, some have weathered so much they’re unreadable, and some commemorate white men who fought in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
But about 2,000 people were buried in the three-acre cemetery. What looks like wide open space is where the slaves are buried.
After nine black churchgoers were killed by a white man in a Charleston, S.C., shooting in June, 2015, a group of Somerset residents decided to work on a way to celebrate the small city’s commitment to equality and diversity. They decided to erect a piece of art to commemorate the lives of those slaves.
They have partnered with Lexington’s LexArts and are selecting and commissioning an artist to create a lasting piece of art to honor the slaves. In all, the project is expected to cost $50,000. The group is raising money through the online fundraising site Razoo.
Nathan Zamarron, the community arts director at LexArts, said three finalists will be chosen to provide designs of site-specific projects. Then the winning artist will be chosen.
No site has yet been decided for the memorial, but “it will be sizeable and significant,” Zamarron said.
Paula Stigall, who is on the board for the monument project, said she joined because of her “passion for keeping Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream alive. This was something I wanted to be a part of.”
Delores Dalton, who also is on the board, said the slaves deserve to be honored.
“We treat our pets better than those people were treated,” she said. “We can give them some dignity and respect. They were slaves, but there’s more beauty to their lives than just that.”
Paul Guffey, a member of the board, said the memorial will be good for the community. He and his friends Charles Leveridge and Dave Holland began discussing a way for Somerset to show its commitment to diversity shortly after the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
“Somerset needs a message that we are inclusive,” Guffey said.