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Memorial to Slaves in Unmarked Graves in Somerset Will Be Dedicated Oct. 21

Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial

The dedication of the Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial at Somerset Community College will be held on Oct. 21.

The memorial is a 20-foot tall, 2,000 pound work of stainless steel that soars into the sky in the heart of the college campus.

The sculpture was installed by the artist Ayokunle Odeleye in July.

The idea for the memorial came as a way to take positive action after a horrific event – the massacre of nine African-Americans by a 21-year-old white man at a Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015.

Phillip Duncan, co-chair of the Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial board, said many people in the region have told him they are proud of the positive message the memorial brings to the public. 

“It is a way for us to recognize and to pay tribute to all those who were sold into slavery, especially in this Lake Cumberland Area," said Duncan. "It also demonstrates that these lives of these enslaved Americans, they mattered and they made a difference.” The guest speaker for the dedication is University of Kentucky Professor of History Gerald L. Smith. He is co-editor of The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia.

The dedication of the Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial marks the beginning of the next phase of the project. Those behind the effort now want to take the message of the memorial into classrooms.

“We’ve been contacted by several educators in the local school districts, and around the entire Lake Cumberland area, that are looking forward to moving forward with the educational portion of this project,” said Duncan.

The dedication ceremony will be held in  the Meece Auditorium at SCC at 6 p.m.  

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