DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — A dozen volunteers with the Friends of Geer Cemetery were in Durham on Saturday watching century-old headstones be cleaned and restored at one of Durham’s most historic cemeteries.
“The earliest that we know about this cemetery is from a feed from 1877,” said Debora Taylor Gonzalez-Garcia, the President of the Friends of Geer Cemetery.
Time has taken its toll on some of the headstones, some of them now covered with dirt and others knocked over. The cemetery is the final resting place of more than 1,500 African Americans.
“There are educators here, religious ministers here, or people who helped found some of the founding churches in Durham that are still in existence today,” Gonzalez-Garcia said.
Some descendants of the people buried at the cemetery watched as the headstones were restored.
“My great, great, great grandfather, who is the youngest brother of Louis Goodloe, who is buried here, on his death certificate, it shows he’s buried here in Geer Cemetery,” said Michael Williams, a descendant of the Goodloe family.
Some descendants say that by cleaning and respecting the gravesites, it’s a chance to feel close to their own ancestors.
“To be here in this space is really a chance to touch history because history emanates off the tombs of those buried here,” Williams said.
Volunteers say it’s also a chance to pay respects to hundreds of people who made Durham what it is today.
“We can’t let history wash them by, we can’t let them fall out of memory,” said James Stewart with the Friends of Geer Cemetery.