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A documentary raises awareness for 'forgotten black cemeteries'

Preservation Forsyth has teamed up with Aperture Cinema to help restore older run-down Black cemeteries.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Preservation Forsyth, in partnership with Aperture Cinema and others will present special showings of “Unmarked”, a documentary about historic and disadvantaged African American cemeteries. The film will be shown on Wednesday, Sept. 29 at the William C. Sims Recreation Center, 1201 Alder Street, and on Thursday, Sept. 30 at Senior Services of Winston-Salem, 2895 Shorefair Drive NW. Cemetery tours with members of each caretaker organization are available at 6:00 p.m. with screenings beginning at 7:00 p.m. All are free and open to the public.  

“We started this project after watching a recent series which highlighted the impediments to preserving Forsyth County’s African American cemeteries,” said Martha Canipe, board member of Preservation Forsyth. “Our goal is to initiate a countywide community discussion as a way to bring public awareness to this issue, generate support for the individuals and organizations trying to repair, preserve, and restore these cemeteries, and recruit volunteers to help with individual sites."

Prior to the Wednesday screening, the audience is invited to tour the historic Happy Hill Cemetery, much of which was destroyed by the construction of U.S. Highway 52. Damage to the cemetery and plans for repairs will be discussed by Happy Hill Cemetery Friends. There will also be a display of artifacts near the William C. Sims Center. Parking will be available directly across the street. The film will be shown in the Sims parking lot, so patrons are advised to bring their own portable chairs. Concessions will be available.

Prior to the Thursday screening, the audience is invited to tour the historic Oddfellows Cemetery, which is normally closed to the public. Friends of Oddfellows Cemetery will be on hand for a discussion of strategies for much needed repairs, and artifacts will be on display. Parking will be available to the rear of the Senior Services parking lot where the film will be shown. Patrons are asked to bring their own portable chairs. Concessions will be available.

“Unmarked” documents the neglect and deterioration of historic African American gravesites and burial grounds for enslaved persons, and the ongoing efforts by volunteers to repair and preserve those sites. For more information about the film, visit www.unmarkedfilm.com

To learn more about Preservation Forsyth and how you can help protect our historic buildings and sites, visit www.preservationforsyth.org. or call (336) 970-7491.