Clemson Finds The Unmarked Graves Of Enslaved People On Its Campus

John C. Calhoun

M S

Clemson University has found 200 unmarked graves of the formerly enslaved on its campus.

According to The Washington Post, a group of Clemson University students “went looking earlier this year for a campus site where dozens of enslaved people were buried,” and six months later, Clemson “says it has found more than 200 unmarked graves there — many belonging to enslaved people owned by John C. Calhoun, the nation’s seventh vice president, whose plantation later became the school’s campus.”

  • The school has “hired a full-time historian to assist a professor working to document the lives of those buried there,” and will figure out “how best to memorialize the site.”

“We are committed to taking all the critically important actions to enhance these grounds, preserve these gravesites and to ensure the people buried there are properly honored and respected,” Smyth McKissick, chairman of Clemson’s board of trustees, said in a statement.

  • Clemson University is “built on the Fort Hill Plantation, which belonged to Calhoun, a politician who vehemently defended slavery throughout his career,” The Post wrote. “The university says it is making concerted efforts to bring transparency to its history.”
  • “In addition to enslaved people, sharecroppers and laborers are also buried there, alongside some prisoners who helped build the school. All of the people in the unmarked graves are African American, the school said,” according to The Post.

The team who discovered the graves said on a website chronicling the project, “the university has failed to properly honor, mark, or protect this burial ground despite some attempts to do so since 1946.” They added, “What we know now is disturbing enough to raise significant and uncomfortable questions that will likely take several years of research to answer.”

  • Clemson plans “to erect new signage to properly identify the areas of the unmarked graves, to build better fencing and to better maintain the area,” The Post reported.
  • The university also enlisted Rhondda R. Thomas, a professor of 18th- and 19th-century African American literature, to work “with the local Black community to decide how best to honor the people buried in Woodland Cemetery,” the report added.

“We know that people want answers now that the discovery is known,” Thomas told WYFF television. “And we want to assure the public and the local African American community that the work continues and that we will continue working on this as long as it takes to get the answers that we need.”

Read the full report here.

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