LEXINGTON, N.C. (WGHP) — Hundreds of years later, the City of Lexington is working to memorialize former slaves buried inside Lexington City Cemetery.

Thanks to the help of a $6,000 grant from the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office and $2,500 from the city, city officials will be able to get an archeologist to study the unmarked mass grave site.

Lexington Mayor Jason Hayes says that currently, the only evidence the city has of former slaves being buried in the cemetery is a marker that sits on top of stones cemented together.

The problem is they do not know how many graves could be there and when the current monument was made, which says “In this large vacant space before the Civil War. Negro slaves were buried by their masters.

Community and city leaders said it isn’t enough.

“We as a city pride ourselves on inclusion and diversity and equity. If there are folk buried here. What more equitable way to acknowledge then with an appropriate monument,” said Hayes.

Hayes said the grant will allow them to get an archeologist to study all 3,800 square feet of the unmarked graves, by using technology to conduct a study with ground-penetrating radar and document the findings.

“To determine if there are an anomaly under the soil, if there are any additional markers. As I understand it there may be some limits to the technology, but we feel like we should put it in the hands of the expert to determine what is actually here what they can detect,” said Hayes.

Tyrone Terry, the community activist who discovered the graves says this is a step in the right direction.

He says the City of Lexington shows progression by recognizing the graves and wanting to show recognition to the former slaves.

“These were human beings these weren’t animals; these were human beings that were treated like this. It should have never happened, and it never should have taken this long for our city to acknowledge what we’ve discovered now,” said Terry.

Terry along with several people apart of St Stephens United Methodist Church, have visited the grave sites throughout the years, to pay their respects, and have started helping the city raise funds for a memorial.

“The fact that you could build, get a grave site like this and just throw children, men women grandmother’s grandfather’s in here with no kind of love shown to them. That’s why it still affects me,” said Terry.

Terry and Hayes’ said the mission after the study is to construct a new modern memorial, that is dedicated to the former slave.

Haye’s said there is no date for when the study will start, but the plan of to have a lot of data from the findings by next year and construct the memorial by Juneteenth.