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Grassroots effort to restore historically-Black cemetery in Salisbury after vandalism | 'It's just so disrespectful'

A task force of residents is dedicated to bringing new life to a cemetery where slaves and their descendants were buried north of Charlotte.

SALISBURY, N.C. — Every holiday, Tanny Reddick pays a visit with flowers for her late sister's grave. 

A sister Reddick barely knew. 

Dorothy Donaldson passed away in 1956 when she was just a teenager, leaving behind six siblings. She was one of the last individuals to be buried at the historically-Black cemetery in Salisbury: Dixonville Cemetery.

The cemetery sits off a busy road, next to a community pool and park. More than 450 Black people are buried on the grounds. Many do not have markers on their graves. 

In the 1950s and '60s, Reddick remembers walking through the cemetery, past her sister's grave, to attend the all-Black school in town.

"I walked past her every day, every day," Reddick said. "And I hardly got to know her."

There is a grassroots effort, led by those who witnessed the segregation of Salisbury decades ago, to restore the Dixonville Cemetery. 

Members of the Dixonville-Lincoln Memorial Project have a goal of paving the path throughout the cemetery, as well as putting headstones on unmarked graves. 

RELATED: Vandalized headstones at historic Black cemetery to be repaired

Hattie Harris is a member of the special task force, and also has personal connections to the cemetery.

"There's a lady that's buried in this cemetery that tried to teach me how to sew, and then there's someone that's buried here who was my piano teacher," Harris said.

For people like Reddick and Harris, preserving the memories and lives lost of those in the historic cemetery is more than important: it's needed.

"We all want to know a little bit about our past," Harris said. "There's been a lot of development around Salisbury. Some for the good...and for some...nothing has changed."

Reddick said visiting her sister's grave is special to her, something her mother used to do. 

Reddick brought a few pictures to share of Dorothy.

Recently, members of the task force found several headstones at the cemetery damaged. Salisbury Police are still looking for whoever is responsible.

RELATED: 16 markers disturbed in historic Black North Carolina cemetery

For families of those buried there, like Reddick, seeing her sister's grave vandalized is hurtful.

"It's just so disrespectful, how somebody could do that," Reddick said.

So far, more than $500,000 has been raised by the Dixonville-Lincoln Memorial Project. You can donate to the project here.

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