HILLSDALE, Mo. – A historic Black cemetery in north St. Louis County was vandalized. The headstones were toppled over, and fires were set. Two teenagers are now charged with the crime.
The community leaders are trying to figure out why someone would do this.
“You would think that something like this would not happen,“ said Raphael Morris, president of the Greenwood Cemetery Preservation Association.
Preservationists of the historic Black Greenwood Cemetery in Hillsdale, Missouri, were assessing the damage on Tuesday. After close to 40 headstones were damaged by vandals at the 150-year-old cemetery.
Greenwood Cemetery is one of the oldest African American cemeteries in the St. Louis region, dating back to 1876. The last time a burial took place was in 1993.
The cemetery is almost 32 acres and is the final resting place for many former slaves, historic figures, and war veterans from the Civil War to the Vietnam War. Harriet Robinson Scott, a civil rights activist and wife of Dred Scott, was part of the historic case. More than 50,000 people are buried there. Morris said he has relatives buried at the graveyard.
The Hillsdale Police Department said two 15-year-old boys were taken into custody shortly after damaging the headstones and are allegedly responsible for setting several benches on fire in the cemetery.
“We have too much important history in this cemetery for all this to continue. This has got to stop,” Morris said.
The cemetery leaders said the culprits left thousands of dollars worth of damage behind, and now they are trying to figure out how to move forward.
“We have a few volunteer groups that come out. AmeriCorps spent the entire summer out here with me, so we get help, but it’s never enough,” Morris said.
For more information on how you can assist the cemetery, click here.