New survey work brings total number of unmarked graves to 667
Surveys of additional areas of Woodland Cemetery on the Clemson University campus located another 63 unmarked graves, bringing the total number of unmarked graves discovered at the site to 667.
A team hired by Clemson used ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to survey about 4 1/2 acres of previously unmapped ground. Crews recently cleared undergrowth in order to access the areas with their equipment. The recently surveyed areas are in the northeast and southeast corners of the cemetery. The survey team completed the work during the last week of January.
The team has begun work to create a detailed map of the cemetery. That work is expected to take several weeks.
Many of the unmarked graves are thought to be those of enslaved people who worked at the plantation and later as sharecroppers and Black laborers, including convicted individuals involved in the construction of Clemson College from 1890 to 1915.
Initial GPR work in late July revealed the locations of more than 200 unmarked graves in Woodland Cemetery believed to date back more than a century. Subsequent testing in other areas of the cemetery located additional grave sites primarily on the western, northwestern and northern slopes, as well as many in an area to the south and southeast previously identified as the “Site of Unknown Burials.”
Dr. Rhondda Thomas, the Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature at Clemson whose research and teaching focuses on early African-American literature and culture, is working with the local African-American community to identify family members who may have ancestors buried in the unmarked graves. She formed a Community Engagement Council with members representing Clemson/Central, Anderson, Pendleton and Oconee County areas to help guide Clemson in the preservation and memorialization of the site.
The Clemson University Board of Trustees is committed to compiling a complete and accurate accounting of the university’s role in Woodland Cemetery, and creating a preservation plan to protect, honor and respect all who are buried there. Board Chairman Smyth McKissick created a Board Task Force headed by Trustee David Dukes, who also chairs the Clemson Legacy Council overseeing the work.