LEXINGTON, N.C. -- People of all backgrounds took part in a ceremony at Lexington’s City Cemetery on Sunday in a gathering that would have been unheard of 20 years ago.
“All types of people here. All races here. That shows times have changed,” Tyrone Terry said.
Dozens of people gathered around a single stone monument to honor the hundreds of slaves buried for two centuries beneath their feet.
“Children, men and women. They were thrown in there like animals. No ceremony. I’m sure the family had to come here and sneak up here at night just to say what they had to say,” Terry said.
He recently re-discovered the grave. He heard about the burial site from an old friend and went to search for it himself.
“So I came up here and I walked, and I walked, and I walked. And I found it,” Terry said.
It took him three days to find that city leaders didn't even know existed.
“Let’s have a formal funeral service to put them to rest as they should’ve been like everybody else out here,” said Bruce Holmes, former director of research and analytical laboratories at NC A&T.
St. Stephen United Methodist Church led the service with songs and prayer.
“200 years is a long time to lay in cold dirt without having anybody recognize you’re here,” Holmes said.
A wreath was laid over the grave marker honoring the slaves who lived and died there.
“A lot of times you can read something, and you don’t get that same effect as when you see it. When you witness it, everything changes then. Everything changes, and it changed me," Terry said.
Bryce says although the site is older than Lexington and Davidson Counties, he’s confident there is a record that reveals more about the mass slave grave.
“Everything’s got a record somewhere. We just got to find them,” Holmes said.
City leaders tell FOX8 they plan to hold a commemoration service every year during Black History Month.