St. Louis County honors clean up effort of overgrown African Ame - KMOV.com

St. Louis County honors clean up effort of overgrown African American historic cemetery

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St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger ,left, honored Raphael Morris,right, for his efforts to clean up Greenwood Cemetery (Credit: KMOV) St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger ,left, honored Raphael Morris,right, for his efforts to clean up Greenwood Cemetery (Credit: KMOV)
NORTH ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV.com) -

February 25, 2018 has officially been proclaimed "Greenwood Cemetery Preservation Association Day" by St. Louis County to recognize the clean up efforts of  the plot of land by community volunteers over the last decade.

Some of the most influential African American St. Louisans are buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in North County, in the Hillsdale neighborhood. However, for decades it was left unkempt and overgrown.

In 1999, a group of people related to many buried there decided to get together and make it beautiful again.

"You see something that's not right, you got to do something about it. At least, that's always been my philosophy," said Raphael Morris, the president of the Greenwood Cemetery Preservation Association.

"We came out one day and saw what this cemetery had grown into, which was a forest. All 32 acres was easily 12-15 feet tall and you couldn't see a single stone on the property," said Morris.

After years of hard work, the cemetery is now wide open and walkable. "You would not believe how much work and effort, long hours and a lot of blood, sweat and tears was spent out here," said Morris.

Their hard work honors 50,000 African Americans buried there, dating back to the 1800s, including former slaves, soldiers, civil rights leaders and Harriet Robinson Scott, the Supreme Court plaintiff and wife to Dred Scott.

The last person buried at Greenwood Cemetery was in 1993, when the upkeep stopped.

"This is really an unknown gem in St. Louis County and in our region," said Steve Stenger, County Executive, which is why he chose to honor the volunteers hard work with a dedication day. "I think it's really important to recognize the work that the Association did to beautify this cemetery and restore it."

There are still sections of the cemetery that need to be cleared of overgrowth. The association will continue the upkeep, but asks for the community's help through time and funding.

"Everything we do is basically out of pocket. We bring our tools from home and we got to work and do what," said Morris.

Missouri Botanical Gardens recently pledged to help. On March 3rd, they will do an invasive removal and this summer they will bring their teen employment program out to help with maintenance.

To donate to the continued clean up: http://greenwoodstl.org

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