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Ceremony to rededicate Lincoln Cemetery in Carlisle scheduled for Memorial Day
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Ceremony to rededicate Lincoln Cemetery in Carlisle scheduled for Memorial Day

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Lincoln Cemetery 1

Lincoln Cemetery is at Penn and Pitt streets in Carlisle.

A Remembrance and Rededication Ceremony will be held at the Lincoln Cemetery in Memorial Park in Carlisle at 11:30 a.m. Monday.

The public is invited to gather around the flagpole where community volunteers had painted a mural patterned after the flag used by the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War.

“Deputy Mayor Sean Schultz is expected to give a statement,” said TaWanda Hunter-Stallworth, who is helping to organize the Memorial Day observance. “Part of the program includes a litany of remembrance and rededication led by area clergy.”

Army Col. Kandace Daffin, a student at the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, will be the guest speaker.

The ceremony will incorporate elements of the traditional Memorial Day service held every year by the nearby Haines-Stackfield American Legion Post. This includes a roll call of veterans who have died since last spring.

For years, post members have kept alive the memory of this African-American cemetery where many veterans are buried, Hunter-Stallworth said. This Memorial Day, Carlisle Borough is taking a more active role as local residents rally behind the effort to restore the sanctity of a burial ground without grave markers, she said.

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“When the Legion was looking to do its annual service, there was talk from the borough end of doing a rededication of the cemetery,” Hunter-Stallworth said. “We are overdue for this type of measure to take place. It’s time that the borough comes alongside the legion, not only to try to right some wrongs that have been committed, but also to look forward to forging relationships so that we can say we are stronger together.”

Last October, the borough council, through Mayor Tim Scott, issued a statement apologizing for the removal in 1972 of the tombstones of Black residents buried in Lincoln Cemetery.

“It is important that we as elected leaders of borough government take accountability for our past and recognize the damage caused by some of the worst chapters of our community’s history,” Scott said. The council followed up by passing a formal resolution.

Hunter-Stallworth is the great-granddaughter of Fleta Jordan who resisted the effort by the borough to convert the cemetery into recreational space by removing the grave markers. That struggle became a legal fight. As a result, a Jordan family tombstone was retained as the sole reminder for almost 50 years that the Lincoln Cemetery even existed.

For generations, nothing was done to reclaim the cemetery. That changed when the U.S. Army War College Class of 2019 wanted to honor the dead. Their request to offer a class gift set in motion a community dialogue in October 2018 that led to multiple projects to commemorate those buried beneath Memorial Park.

In late May 2019, the class gift of an archway was installed and dedicated in the entryway to the cemetery near the basketball courts. The goal is to guide visitors in and help them understand they are entering hallowed ground.

Last fall, volunteers painted the mural around the flagpole that included the names of veterans and the surnames of families buried in Lincoln Cemetery. The paint is being retouched in preparation for the ceremony next Monday.

This month, volunteers installed three display cases around the flagpole. One case exhibits artwork made by the students and staff of Hope Station, a neighborhood center that works to develop community pride and opportunities for advancement. This nonprofit organization occupies the same railroad station that once housed the now missing tombstones from the Lincoln Cemetery.

Email Joseph Cress at jcress@cumberlink.com.

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