PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — All month long CBS3 has been highlighting Black History Month by introducing you to people making a difference in their communities. But, this next story has a call to action. There’s a forgotten cemetery in Northeast Philadelphia that many say can no longer be ignored.
Benjamin Rush State Park, located in Northeast Philadelphia, is scenic and serene. It’s the city’s only state park. In the spring and summer, you’ll find lush community gardens, trails, recreational spaces, Pennsylvania woodlands — an escape from the city.Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade, Allowing States To Ban Abortion
But for all who’ve spent time there, one has to wonder, how many are aware of the burial ground on the premises? It’s unmarked, unfenced, and unprotected.
Kathleen Butler, a freelance historian, said she came across an article written about it in 2013.
Butler took CBS3 down a gravel road, which turned into a dirt path, leading to a fork in the road. And there, as unremarkable as could be, was the Byberry Meeting African American cemetery.
“The people deserve dignity,” Butler said.
Researcher and preservationist Joseph J. Menkevich was the person who wrote the that Butler read, so CBS3 tracked him down.
“There was this national study, there was a survey was done,” Menkevich said.
There really wasn’t that great a mystery after all. The Quakers, who owned the land and allowed freed Blacks to be buried there, looked after the property for some time. Until they didn’t, and then?READ MORE: The Philadelphia School Of Circus Arts In West Mounty Airy Kicks Off Its Summer Camp
The Quakers sold the land to the city in 1980 and Philly leased it to the National Archives, who owned the property where the bodies are buried.
”I found out there’s a cemetery here,” Menkevich said.
Menkevich’s detailed research includes documents, surveys, and deeds. Prior to the National Archives’ construction on the site, they even discussed fencing for the burial ground, but nothing was done.
Menkevich nominated the site for inclusion to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, hoping there would at least be a historic marker erected. But that was in 2013.
“Until someone takes up the cause, nothing is going to happen to that cemetery,” Menkevich said.
Sadly, the Byberry Meeting African American cemetery and others like it, still have no markers, designations, or the requisite respect for the deceased we all wish for our families.
Right now, the ball is squarely in the court of our elected leaders.MORE NEWS: Roe v. Wade Overturned: Here's What It Means For Residents In Pennsylvania, New Jersey And Delaware
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