Dixonville task force works to engrave names and quotes at cemetery – Salisbury Post

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By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY – With phase two nearing completion, Dixonville-Lincoln Memorial Task Force chair Emily Perry said recent efforts have focused on prints that will honor the more than 500 African Americans buried at the cemetery and connected in the historic district.

Since 2010, the task force has worked to identify the names and connections of hundreds of African Americans buried at the cemetery for a three-phase project. The community of Dixonville was located on the east side of Salisbury, and much of it was negatively affected by urban renewal in the 1960s.

The memorial site, located at 210 Old Concord Road, is the centerpiece of a tight-knit neighborhood and a path for children attending historic Lincoln Elementary School, which was the first school opened for African-American students in Salisbury in the late 1800s.

Work on the cemetery project began in 2018. The task force and community members worked to repair existing gravestones and create a historic sign, walking trail, and interpretive promenade. Additionally, a $ 50,000 grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation enabled Rowan-Cabarrus Community College to set up a ‘Here’s My Story’ seating area that includes a bench with quotes from the local resident and board member. administration of Salisbury Pride, Jamie Wilkerson and Kiddieland Kindergarten teacher and administrator Timika Peterson.

Perry told the Post’s task force that members of the group have come together and confirmed around 530 names they aim to engrave on the columns built along the perimeter of the cemetery. Prominent African American residents of Salisbury who are buried at the cemetery include Bishop John Jamison Moore, who founded AME Zion Church in western North Carolina, and Reverend Harry Cowan, a pastor born in slavery but continued to found 49 churches and baptize 8,500 people. The oldest known grave honors the death of Mary Valentine in 1851.

Additionally, Perry said task force members obtained quotes from family members of those who were connected to the neighborhood and community in some way, living or deceased. Some quotes speak of the cemetery, while others describe life around that time in general, Perry said. The goal is to engrave these quotes on the steps of the memorial site.

The task force isn’t sure how much the prints will cost, Perry said, but it’s the final piece in the second phase of the project, which focuses on the interpretive walk. While the task force aimed to complete the prints by the end of the year, Perry said the pandemic and delays in the supply chain could make that goal unachievable.

Additionally, the task force is determining how best to share the completed project with the wider community, as Perry is currently reluctant to come together as a group for full dedication service. The city, she added, is working to include quotes and general information about individuals and their contributions to the community on the project website. The website is www.dixonvillememorial.com.

The third phase of the project involves the revitalization of Lincoln Elementary School, considered the focal point of the community. The revitalization plan is to transform the long-vacant historic school into a useful space as well as to rebuild the walkway used by children to get to the school.

But Perry said this phase is a challenge as it is owned by Mt. Calvary Holy Church, which hopes to sell the property. The task force doesn’t have the funds to buy the property, but it still has “great sentimental value to those of us who grew up in this neighborhood,” Perry said.

“We are not giving up,” she said, adding that the task force was exploring other options to preserve the school.

To date, donations to a Go Fund Me created for the project amount to nearly $ 510,000 of the goal of $ 555,000. The GoFundMe can be found at gofundme.com/f/dixonvillelincoln-memorial. In August 2020, members of the city council adopted a budget ordinance to allocate $ 200,000 from the balance of funds in the 2020-2021 budget for the second phase.

The cemetery seating area is designated in memory of Fred M. Evans, a former Dixonville resident and chair of the Memorial Task Force that initiated the memorial project. Other people originally involved in the project who have since been successful include the late William C. Peoples, Betty Dan Spencer, Floyd A. Kerr III and Eleanor Qadirah.

“These people put their hearts and souls into this project,” said Perry. “And I will be eternally grateful to them. “

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.


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