Ohio students uncover and mend grave injustice at historical cemetery

Students found 12 African-Americans were buried in unmarked graves at Butternut Ridge Cemetery

Ohio students uncover and mend grave injustice at historical cemetery

NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio (WOIO) - What’s it like to be known?

That’s what a group of now freshman wondered when their 8th grade project uncovered a grave injustice, right in North Olmsted.

“It’s like super surprising, it like shocked me at first. This can’t be true, there’s no way," said freshman Rafel Alshakergi.

The students were studying for a language arts and history project involving some of the city’s first African-American settlers.

The students told 19 News they had a hard time gathering information about the Peake and Cousins families.

“We couldn’t find like one thing on them. No names, who they were, nothing," said freshman Maya Eklhatib.

Their months-long research brought them to the historic Butternut Ridge Cemetery, where it came to a standstill.

Three North Olmsted teens gather to pay respects to long-lost settlers.
Three North Olmsted teens gather to pay respects to long-lost settlers. (Source: WOIO)

“We just saw grass, just space, a rectangle, nothing there," said freshman Kameron Swanson.

They discovered about a dozen members of the families were buried there in unmarked graves.

“With our teachers teaching us about marginalized groups it was super surprising that we found that in our own community," said Alshakergi.

The students met with North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy, who encouraged them to right the wrong.

North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy discusses honoring the dead.
North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy discusses honoring the dead. (Source: WOIO)

They continued to raise awareness and made headlines.

Over the summer, their teacher, Debbie Holecko, received a call from a local cemetery memorial company. It wanted to donate a stone to recognize the people buried in those unmarked graves.

Monday afternoon, the students will unveil this marker to the community with an inscription that they wrote.

The Peake and Cousins settlers receive a long overdue gravestone.
The Peake and Cousins settlers receive a long overdue gravestone. (Source: WOIO)

They tell 19 News they are proud.

“If we’re doing it, then you should probably be doing it too. It’s not that hard to stick up no matter what color you are, you just kind of have to find the humanity in that person," said Alshakergi.

Now those once forgotten, will always be remembered.

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