CHARLOTTE: Community Commemorates Black Rebellion at Unmarked Slave Graves

Activists and Community Members gather to commemorate the gravesites of Black slaves and celebrate Black rebellion

By Destinee Fuerte

On February 1, members of revolutionary organization Serve the People (STP) and the community came together to honor the slaves buried in unmarked graves in front of the gentrified Silos apartments in the South End neighborhood of Charlotte. Attendees gathered around a community-made sign marking the site that was installed by activists.

The event was attended by both activists and community members who had seen flyers pasted up around their neighborhoods, dropping by on their way home from work.

Presenters gave speeches on Black revolutionaries and fighters who combatted chattel slavery to liberate their people from bondage. The speeches covered historical figures like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, whose revolutionary deeds are regularly whitewashed by bourgeois historians, as well as Nat Turner, who led the most successful violent slave rebellion in US history.

The sign that was erected in front of the grave site facing the street read, “Slaves are buried here, Black resistance continues, combat and resist white supremacy.” The sign serves to inform passersby that the slaves buried there will not be forgotten.

Information about the former slaves and their family buried here resurfaced in 2014, when the City of Charlotte Code Enforcement was called out to the property. In a 1935 map, the street by the graves was listed as Shuman Ave. According to library records obtained by the slave’s descendants, those buried here were the Shumans: William, Martha, Margaret, Levi, John, Jane, Eddie, Dumpie, and two with the name Frank Shuman. The little information available lists the death of one Frank Shuman in 1904. Today, the City of Charlotte claims to be investigating who owns the land but have made no progress on the case.

The event highlighted the fact that chattel slavery may have ended, but that Black people are still exploited by the US ruling class and oppressed in the imperialist system. Racism is a tool of US imperialism used to further stratify the working class, dividing workers against each other and creating a stratum of unemployed and desperate workers to force competition and drive down the price of labor.

Charlotte itself is still a deeply divided city, shown in the disproportionate effects of gentrification on working class Black neighborhoods in the central city, and the higher proportions of poverty among Black populations.

Following the speeches, organizers presented art pieces made for the event and explained how they related to resistance against slavery and white supremacy.

Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery and went on to become one of the most prominent Black leaders of the 19th century, is typically celebrated by liberals and bourgeois historians for his abolitionist work. But, as a quote that ended one speech illustrated, Douglass understood the immutable law of revolutionary violence, that the oppressed will inevitably rebel en force.

“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”