In a wooded area at the corner of Maybank Highway and Folly Road lies a cemetery plot within the McLeod Plantation Historic Site. Locally, it’s known as the Sankofa Memorial Garden.
A Charleston County agency is reaching out to descendants of those buried there and residents familiar with the site to compile written and oral histories.
“We’d like to start getting the word out to African American churches on James Island and solicit interest from family descendants so we can get feedback from them,” said Adam Ronan, the land resource planner for Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission (CCPRC).
CCPRC, which owns the 37-acre McLeod Plantation Historic Site, recently completed a study of the burial ground to determine its boundaries and the number of burial sites. An additional acre of burial sites owned by the City of Charleston was included in the study.
“We felt like we needed to be good stewards,” Ronan said.
The commission originally speculated there were about 60 to 70 unmarked graves based on previous surveying. Field work located about 400 unmarked graves in the Sankofa Memorial Garden by mid-July and determined the size of the site was larger than anticipated. The commission will gather and interpret written and oral histories of the site throughout fall and winter 2022-2023, Ronan said.
The McLeod Plantation Historic Site is a former sea island cotton plantation and current Gullah-Geechee heritage site. It opened in 2015 as a public county park and historic site. Sankofa Memorial Garden dates back to the mid-late 1700s, according to historical records, with its last recorded burial in 1965.
CCPRC’s site-specific study was completed after the commission organized a cemetery management preservation plan in August 2021 to guide a larger study of nine burial sites located within its 11,000 acre park system, Ronan said.
For the McLeod site study, the commission assembled an advisory group that includes family descendants, community members, the Charleston County Parks Foundation, the Historic Charleston Foundation and staff from the City of Charleston. The commission also hired cultural resource management firm New South to complete the overarching cemetery management preservation plan and carry out field work for the McLeod project.
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