Lost graves of St. Phillips Church

OLD SALEM, N.C. — St. Phillips Church sits in the south corner of Old Salem, a cornerstone representing black history in Winston-Salem as the oldest African-American church still standing in North Carolina.

When Moravians first settled in Salem, they considered the slaves who lived and worked there, as spiritual equals.

“Black and white Moravians worshipped together for a couple of decades,” explained Cheryl Harry, Director of African-American programming.

“But as they stayed here in America, they began to absorb the separatist attitudes of the people around them.”

The Moravians built a separate church for their Black congregation.

The churchyard in front of St. Phillips eventually became a segregated graveyard, specifically for African Moravian burials.

For some reason, Harry said, the headstones of the graveyard were removed about 100 years ago.

The identities and locations of those buried were lost.

Church records showed 131 graves total were on the site; recent excavations unveiled most of them.

More than a dozen graves, however, are still undiscovered and unmarked.

Manager of Research and Operations Kym Maddocks helped with the excavations.

“Being able to piece all that back together I think knits itself into a nice story of the people who lived and worked here.”

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