ETBU students join effort to restore historic African-American cemetery

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MARSHALL—Students from East Texas Baptist University and Wiley College have joined to help clean up a long-neglected historic African-American cemetery.

Love Cemetery—near Scottville, in eastern Harrison County—includes graves dating back to the days of slavery.

etbu love cemetary guys350As East Texas Baptist University students Zach Bearden of Magnolia and Travis Dice of Spring participated in a work day at Love Cemetery, they discovered a hand tooled grave marker that had been buried at least 10 years. (PHOTOS/ETBU/Melody Maxwell)The surrounding private property has limited visitors’ access more than 40 years, and the growth of wisteria, grass and weeds almost choked out any resemblance of a cemetery.

Wiley College has been participating several years in efforts to restore the cemetery. In recent months, the Love Cemetery Burial Association invited East Texas Baptist University students to join the cleanup effort.

During a recent workday, about 20 ETBU students, faculty and staff members brought gloves, shovels, rakes and brush clippers to participate alongside friends from Wiley and the cemetery association.

ETBU’s physical facilities department constructed and donated steel crosses to mark gravesites that had been unmarked or poorly marked.     

“My experience at Love Cemetery was beyond what I expected,” said Desmond Coleman, a student in the ETBU University Scholars program. “Not only were we able to help in the attempt to give descendants of those buried there the full experience of a well-kept cemetery, but we also were privileged to hear the history behind the cemetery.”

Working at the cemetery gave students “the opportunity to join knowledge and theory with the concrete and very real concerns of African-Americans fighting to honor their ancestors with a burial ground worthy of their struggles and triumphs,” Coleman observed.

Students in the ETBU University Scholars program devote one Saturday every semester to community service. 

“When we think about pursuing wisdom as Christian intellectuals, we think of James 3:13: ‘Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.’ That’s our verse for the University Scholars program,” said Cassie Falke, director of the program.

“The Saturday at Love Cemetery was a wonderful opportunity to do a work of gentleness born of wisdom, not necessarily our wisdom either, but the wisdom of the folks who have been working on the project for 10 years now. We just helped.”

Two ETBU students, Travis Dice and Zach Bearden, uncovered a hand-tooled grave marker nobody knew was there.

“That’s real discovery, memorializing a real person,” Falke said. “Law and history, and particularly the history of slavery and civil rights, can seem decidedly unreal to students sometimes, as though they are just questions to be answered on a test. But on the workday, law and history were very real to us.”

Melody Maxwell, director of the ETBU Great Commission Center, noted: “I believe that Love Cemetery is a significant site for understanding our community’s history and working together for reconciliation in Marshall and beyond. We are honored to be a part of this project as we seek to follow the example of service set by Christ.”


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