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Memorial service to be held for unmarked graves

COVINGTON -- For well over a century, hundreds of citizens of Covington have lain in unmarked graves. That all changed when the city of Covington hired Len Strozier with Omega Mapping to use ground penetrating radar to locate the graves. Nearly 400 were discovered, at Eastside and Westside cemeteries, and the city installed small steel markers.

Many of the graves are thought to be those of paupers or slaves, and now, the African-American Historical Association of Newton County is hosting two memorial services on Saturday to recognize them. Many remain unidentified.

"We're looking back, reflecting on the history of Covington. Some of these graves date back as early as the 1820s. We're going to reconsecrate them and give them their proper due, recognizing that the people here in the city of Covington did this now so future generations won't have to," said the organization's president, Forrest Sawyer Jr.

"These had to be special slaves to be buried 10 feet away from folks that didn't look like them -- their masters," he said, referring to those that were buried in Eastview Cemetery and noting that the black cemetery was located not far away. Sawyer speculated they were slaves of prominent Covington residents.

The Eastside Cemetery service will take place at 11 a.m. followed by the Westside service at 2 p.m. Eastside Cemetery is located across from Covington Police Department and Westside is located in the Sandhill Community just off West Street.

Strozier will speak, along with the Rev. Harold Cobb and Professor Mark Auslander, an anthropology professor who formerly worked at Oxford College, and Newton resident Lottie Johnson. Shacoyis Volley of Sims Chapel Baptist Church will sing.

The community is invited to attend.