The African American Cemeteries Restoration Project launched Saturday morning with a press conference at the Morris Street Baptist Church and Union Baptist Church cemeteries near the intersection of Oceanic and Mechanic streets.

The established Cemeteries Restoration Fund, to be maintained by the Gullah Society, will support the restoration of historically significant African American burial grounds throughout the Lowcountry through this project.

“This project is central to the core of the mission of the Gullah society to preserve African American burial grounds,” said Gullah Society President Johanna Martin-Carrington. “The Gullah Society has done very impressive work in this mission, yet there is still so much work to be done.”

Local genealogist and historian Grant Mishoe announced during the conference the discovery of two gravestones belonging to Pompey Grant and Samual Ferguson, two former slaves who served in the U.S. Colored Troops, established in 1863 by the War Department.

“The both would join the ranks of over 178,000 former enslaved men and freedman to create the U.S. Colored Troops,” said genealogist and historian Grant Mishoe. “These men would serve in 175 regiments, making up an approximate one-tenth of the entire union army.”

The graves were discovered in a line of trees just behind the podium at the conference near the Morris Street Baptist Church and Union Baptist Church cemeteries. It is presumed their families were also buried there, Mishoe said.

In addition to Martin-Carrington and Mishoe, the conference was hosted by Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints communications director Dr. David Goltra, Mount Zion AME Church senior pastor, the Rev. Kylon J. Middleton and Morris Street Baptist Church pastor, the Rev. Leonard O. Griffin.