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Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial Moves Forward During MLK Events

Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial

A project to recognize slaves buried in unmarked graves in the Lake Cumberland region is taking another step forward as part of the activities surrounding Martin Luther King Day. The groundbreaking will be held Jan. 18 at Somerset Community College.

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. 

Since then, other similar sites have been located, and a memorial sculpture has been designed and is being constructed by Georgia artist Ayokunle Odeleye, a professor at Kenneshaw State University. 

Phillip Duncan is co-chair of the project. He said this year the region’s Unity Breakfast and Martin Luther King Day events have the theme, “Embracing the Journey,” and the groundbreaking shares that message: “ draw attention to those who really don’t have a voice, didn’t have a voice in the time of slavery.”   

“We look forward to being able celebrate the accomplishments that they did and the contributions they made to the community in the Lake Cumberland area,” said Duncan.  

He said slaves in the Lake Cumberland region are known to have built many of the signature limestone walls and were also an important part of agriculture.

The memorial sculpture is expected to arrive in Somerset by early April.

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