Standing in Way of Alabama Walmart: Slave Graves

New Florence location's driveway could interfere with old cemetery

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted May 16, 2012 9:26 AM CDT

(Newser) – The headaches of new construction: obtaining permits, securing financing, making sure you don't disturb a slave graveyard. The New York Times reports on an unusual situation in Florence, Alabama, where Walmart has plans to open a new store. The issue is that its selected location abuts Coffee Cemetery, the final resting place of Edward O'Neal's ancestors, who bought the land nearly two centuries ago—and their 80 slaves.

Problem is, no one knows exactly where the slaves, who were not given headstones, were buried ... but historical evidence indicates they may be located in the very place designated for Walmart's new driveway. Walmart has promised to spend $25,000 to restore the weathered cemetery, and says it won't disturb the graves. But that's easier said than done, considering the conflicting clues: a 1903 deed that says the cemetery was a square, and decades-old aerial photos indicating it was a rectangle—and therefore in Walmart's way. Also in its way: a number of the town's 39,000 residents, who are protesting the store's presence in general. Click for the full, fascinating story.

Walmart faces an unusual challenge in Alabama.
Walmart faces an unusual challenge in Alabama.   (Getty Images)
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