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Artist Making Progress on Sculpture Honoring Slaves Buried in Lake Cumberland Region

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Ayokunle Odeleye
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A sculpture to honor slaves buried in unmarked graves in Kentucky is in-progress in the artist’s studio in Georgia.

The Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial that will be located in Pulaski County is a 20 foot tall stainless steel sculpture being created by artist Ayokunle Odeleye, a professor at Kenneshaw State University in Georgia.

The sculpture is already reaching high into the rafters of the studio and is due to be completed by April 2019, then delivered to the memorial site at Somerset Community College.

Charles Leveridge, a board member of the nonprofit Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial Association, says the sculpture will be a powerful symbol.

“It is a sculpture to remind everyone that enslaved Americans have been interred in the Lake Cumberland area without any markers. And also to remind everyone that everyone should be afforded dignity and respect in their passing.”

The idea for the Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial took shape after a young white man fatally shot nine African-Americans during a Bible study at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015.

Some Lake Cumberland area residents were at a sunrise service at Somerset City Cemetery and discovered that what looked like a vacant area was actually a site where slaves were buried. Other similar sites were located and the initial idea expanded as an expression of respect for all who helped build America.

Rhonda Miller joined WKU Public Radio in 2015. She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.
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