What started as a project to restore the gravestones of three Black men and women who played a role in the abolitionist movement on the North Shore is evolving into a larger effort to find and restore the final resting places for other African American families, officials said.
In Salem's Howard Street Cemetery, two of the stones marking the burial sites of Venus Chew, Prince Farmer and Samuel Payne, all of whom died in the 1850s, are broken into pieces, The Salem News reported.
The graves to be restored are in what Rachel Meyer, a stone conservator with Epoch Preservation, described as a corner of the cemetery, effectively segregated from the main cemetery.
They occupy a square piece of land the city donated to expand the cemetery to bury African Americans.
The three stones in question have fallen over in time and were sinking into the ground when an area resident contacted Meyer about fixing them.
Doreen Wade, president of Salem United, said she's enthusiastically behind the project because of what it represents -- more than just repairing fragmented gravestones, it's repairing a fragmented story of Salem's past.