For 50 years Deacon Fred Kinnemore says he’s been fighting for the respect and dignity of loved ones who went before him.
His grandparents are buried at the St. Paul Baptist Church Cemetery near Frazier and Wilson roads, but he said their graves have long been paved over.
“This is really a black and white issue,” he told reporter Ashley Thompson.
Kinnemore said dozens of other graves were also paved over decades ago, and he believes racism is to blame. He said back in the day, white residents didn’t want a black church or a black cemetery in their neighborhood.
Celia, his wife of 50 years, saw the racism first-hand.
“They didn’t want the cemetery to be there and dumped trash and stuff on it,” she said.
While Kinnemore’s cries have long fallen on deaf ears, the county is now listening.
“Number one, we owe deacon Kinnemore an apology,” said DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond.
Last week, crews dug up part of Wilson Road and discovered a burial site. Thurmond said sonar suggests there could be up to 26 graves in the right-of-way or under the asphalt.
“Clearly we’re convinced that DeKalb County played a role,” he said. “It’s an embarrassing moment in the history of our county.”
Thurmond said the county’s research suggests racism was at play.
“There was an intentional effort to force the church out of the community and African Americans, during the early and mid-1960s.
The county now has an action plan to try to make things right.
“Our county attorney will file a petition in superior court here in DeKalb County to get permission to actually open up the graves that we find, disinter the remains and then work with the community and family members to find a decent and appropriate way to reinter them at another location.”
Kinnemore, whose been fighting this battle for so long, said it’s never too late to do the right thing.
“What would I say? That we still got to stand up and do what’s right for people,” he said.
“They need to get it resolved,” Celia said. “Because you know people that was buried there, like his grandparents, you really can’t go and pay respects to them because of that.”