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Volunteers clean historic Hampton cemetery ahead of Memorial Day

It's the final resting place for many emancipated African-Americans who’ve made sacrifices for their country.

HAMPTON, Va. — Over at the historic Elmerton Cemetery, the grass and weeds have overtaken many of the tombstones.

It's the final resting place for many emancipated African-Americans who’ve made sacrifices of their own for their country.

Former state delegate Dr. Mary Christian of the Barrett-Peake Heritage Foundation said it’s her group's responsibility to maintain the cemetery but bad weather slowed them down.

“The grass had grown up so high... In fact, people couldn’t even get to the grave sites,” Christian said.

So she reached out to the community for help, and many showed up.

"Knowing what they’ve gone through. Knowing the history of African Americans here in the US. This is the honor that we want to pay to them,” said volunteer Sonja Garrett.

Another volunteer, Shedrick Durden said, “I just felt in my heart it was the right thing to do. So when I saw her offer the S.O.S. call out, I came to answer, answer the call. As I have in the past, I answered the nation’s business when I was called to serve.”

Among those, laid to rest in the cemetery: Mary Peake, who founded a school to teach freed slaves during the Civil War. 

“These are people whose sweat and blood made Hampton, built Hampton,” Christian said.

Volunteers worked all morning to clean the historic cemetery. They started at 6 a.m., mowing the long grass and clearing weeds. 

It was pretty bad," Durden said.

“The grass had grown up. Most of the tombstones and things, you couldn’t see them,” Garrett said. 

Dr. Christian said she's grateful for the help.

“This is a very special day. And I’m and very blessed for this bright weather and all these wonderful volunteers,” she said.