Friends of Zion Hill Cemetery invites community to join in Juneteenth celebration work day

By Elizabeth Jones

Juneteenth (“June Nineteenth”) designates the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865. The troops took control of the state and ensured that all enslaved people were freed. The event came two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Juneteenth honors the end of slavery in the United States. On June 17, 2021, it officially became a federal holiday.

In Monroe, the Zion Hill Colored Baptist Church was established just after Emancipation, and the effects of Georgia’s slave laws can be seen in the burial practices throughout the cemetery. Slaves were not allowed to read or write, so inscribed markers were rare. Sometimes, years after a burial, family members might place an inscribed marker on the grave of a loved one. Many graves were marked by plantings, granite rocks, or roughly hewn sandstone. (We have conducted GPR on half of Zion Hill, finding over 600 unmarked graves. We expect to find several hundred more as the GPR continues.)

Slave laws prevented public meetings of slaves. After slavery ended, many slaves met within orders. These orders are significant for Black people because they were allowed to meet openly after slavery… and because they provided job training. Orders included the Masons, the Odd Fellows, and the Knights of Pythagoras. Orders provided entrepreneurial support to finance housing and businesses.

Join the Friends of Zion Hill on June 18th for our Juneteenth community clean-up day. The cemetery is located behind the shopping center at 226 Alcovy Street, Monroe Georgia. Volunteers will be on site from 9:00 – 12:00. Water and snacks are provided. We will weed eat, rake leaves, and remove fallen branches. (Bring gardening tools like rakes and clippers if you have them, but we will have extra!) Prior to working in the historic cemetery, we will gather in prayer. We will discuss the history of the people who were born into slavery, were emancipated, and are buried at Zion Hill. The Friends of Zion Hill Cemetery Project is a project of love for the entire community.

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