African-American slave cemeteries plowed over for spillway to be restored near New Orleans

theGRIO REPORT - Two cemeteries that had been dedicated to the burial of African-American slaves and their descendants were plowed over in 1929, but will soon be restored...

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The Bonnet Carre Spillway is a drainage structure in St. Charles Parish that protects New Orleans and surrounding areas when the waters of the Mississippi threaten to flood. When it was constructed near the year 1929, two cemeteries that had been dedicated to the burial of African-American slaves and their descendants were plowed over. The Kenner and Kugler cemeteries, which were active from the late 1800s until about 1929, are believed to contain up to 300 burials. Now both sites are slated to be reinstated as sacred places, as the Army Corps of Engineers makes plans to commemorate the cemeteries with memorials.

Now grass-covered lawns, plans for marking the Kenner and Kugler cemeteries as historic slave burial grounds include “adding signs near the sites, and adding markers, trees and landscaping,” according to The Times-Picayune. Roads and parking lots will also be added to each location to make them accessible to the public.

The cemeteries were rediscovered in 1986, although remains from the Kenner Cemetery were disinterred “during a spillway opening in 1975,” the local paper stated. Plans for re-establishing the burial grounds include re-interring these remains.

One hundred and thirty known descendants of those buried at Kenner and Kugler have been contacted by the Army Corps of Engineers for their input into the specific design of the memorials. Descendants are elated that the government is finally righting a wrong that has been allowed to persist for too long.

“I think it’s good,’’ Margie Richard said, whose paternal and maternal grandmothers and great-grandparents are buried in the cemeteries. “The corps should do something rather than just let it stay there. We are looking at a part of history that would die. I think it’s been overlooked too long.”

The cemeteries and surrounding areas are now called The Kenner and Kugler Historical District. The area earned a place on the National Register for Historic Places in 1991 when its significance was confirmed based on the analysis of artifacts found on the grounds.

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