University of Georgia Reburies Remains Found During Construction
ATHENS, Ga. — A year and a half after an expansion of the University of Georgia (UGA) Athens’ Baldwin Hall uncovered the graves of 105 likely slaves, the university has commemorated the deceased and reinterred their bodies at the nearby Oconee Hill Cemetery.
Immediately following the discovery of the remains in November 2015, the university looked to the State Archaeologist’s Office for guidance on what to do with the findings, according to a statement from the university. A team of faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students — led by Dr. Laurie Reitsema from the university’s anthropology department — formed to study the remains, examining ancestry, age, gender and other characteristics. The team was able to analyze the DNA of about a third of the remains, concluding that a majority was of African descent.
The university is now moving into a second phase of research to better understand how these 105 individuals lived and to find their connection to the Athens community, according to a statement. Leading this second phase, UGA Vice President for Research David Lee will assemble a team of faculty members in the coming weeks to conduct a follow-up study.
“Since the first remains were discovered, the university has been actively seeking to learn as much as possible about these individuals,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead in a statement. “That is why we sponsored the initial research and have the information we have today. We hope this next step in the research process will lead to a more complete story of who these individuals were, how they lived and how they came to rest on the Baldwin Hall site.”
Later this spring, Morehead also plans to meet with university members, city officials and other local leaders to explore new ways to partner on opportunities of mutual interest such as educational and economic development. Initiatives already in place between the university and Athens-Clarke County include Experience UGA, which aims to bring every Clarke County student (PreK-12) to UGAʼs campus every year. Faculty and students from the university also work regularly with local organizations to complete service-learning projects that address important community needs.
Alvin Sheats, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, told Yahoo News that he wants the university to offer reparations in the form of tuition for descendants of the 105 people. Sheats also disagreed with reburying the remains and would have liked the gravesites to be kept in their original place.