Knightdale community raising funds for historical marker at long-neglected slave burial grounds

Akilah Davis Image
Tuesday, April 23, 2024
Knightdale neighbors raise funds for marker at long-neglected cemetery
According to the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology, the site had been identified and labeled as the "Hinton Slave Cemetery."

KNIGHTDALE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Benjamin Lange has jogged past the wooded area in the Widewaters Village community, but unbeknownst to him, lost history was hidden in plain sight.

"I seen it. I just thought it was a fenced-in area for something," said Benjamin Lange, Widewaters Community Board President. "I didn't know what it was."

Once board members discovered the site was a burial ground, they knew they needed help. They called on new board member Jill Jackson.

"My first task was to find out if there was any grant funding for the cemetery," said Jackson, the organizer of this effort. "My reply was what cemetery?"

According to the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology, the site had been identified and labeled as the "Hinton Slave Cemetery" in 1995. Documents show that there are 130 graves there that may be temporarily associated with early 19th-century residents in eastern Wake County.

ALSO SEE | Knightdale community works to preserve enslaved burial grounds: 'Make it right'

Another document for the North Carolina Historic Preservation Office stated that those residents were the Hinton family and they owned what was Midway Plantation. Census records from 1860 lists 126 enslaved people living on the property. The owner at the time was Charles Hinton, who was one of very few men living in Wake County with more than 100 slaves. Some of them are buried here in Widewaters. Jackson said she believes her family is there, too.

"It could be my great-great grandfather, George Hinton," she said. "He could be there."

This mission is personal for her. That's why she's calling on the community to help clear debris and logs. She's sent out a call for residents turned volunteers who are trying to raise $2,000 through a GoFundMe to purchase a historic marker.

"When I saw the flier, I felt obligated being that some of my ancestors lie there," said resident Donald Debnam. "Without them, I wouldn't be here."

Debnam is also a descendant of the Hinton family. Both he and Jackson feel a personal responsibility to not let their ancestors down.

"I just feel like the grounds were talking to me. They were talking to me and saying thank you for not forgetting about me," she said. "Thank you for not letting nothing like concrete come over us. Thank you for bringing awareness to the community."