Search for unmarked graves in Lawrence continues after pandemic allows team to find vital discovery

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 4:37 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A team from Lawrence has restarted its effort to find the unmarked graves of three Black men lynched in 1882 after the COVID-19 pandemic enabled it to make a huge discovery.

According to KCTV5, over a century after a white mob lynched three Black residents in Lawrence, surveyors, historians and volunteers are looking for their graves.

The COVID-19 pandemic slowed the process on the ground, however, Doctor Blair Schneider says it also allowed the team to make an invaluable discovery. She said the Lawrence City Clerk stumbled upon a plot map that shows where the lynching victims, Isaac Smith, George Robertson and Peter Vinegar, could be buried.

Dr. Blair Schneider with the Kansas Geological Survey is leading the data collection. She said the team planned to start the project in 2019, but it did not yet have that map. She also said it could be hard to determine what is below the surface after years of decomposition.

KCTV5 said Kerry Altenbard, a local historian, has been the driving force behind the search.

Last year, the NAACP said the 1882 lynchings were not discussed for decades.

“Out of fear. Most of the black community didn’t say much about it. It was more of a hush hush kind of thing,” said Ursula Minor, President of the Lawrence branch of the NAACP.

However, in 2021, residents are now organizing a way to memorialize the three men and others buried in unmarked graves.

Lawrence is known for its original abolitionist settlers and being at the center of the movement to make Kansas a free state.

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