Constructing a new Walmart Supercenter always comes with its own headaches that include city, state and federal building permits, financing requests and of course battling with local protesters. In the case of a proposed location in Florence, Alabama however the company has run into a unique headache, its selected location may eventually rest on top of unmarked graves occupied by approximately 80 slaves.
The stores proposed location abuts Coffee Cemetery where Edward O’Neal’s ancestors were buried along with approximately 80 slaves.
The problem is that slaves were not given headstones and therefore the exact location of their burials is not known. Historical evidence seems to suggest that the graves could be located right where Walmart plans to build a new driveway.
Officials are not sure exactly where the cemetery ends because a 1903 deed shows that it was a simple square while aerial photographs taken 10 years ago indicate that the cemetery may actually be a rectangle and therefore sit directly on Walmart’s new construction site.
In building the new Walmart location the company has promised to spend $25,000 to restore the aging cemetery, however the currently slave grave situation and other business concerns in the area has led to many of the towns 39,000 residents protesting.
Walmart has not yet said how they plan to proceed with the project if the graves are found to be located on land where the company’s new parking lot will be located.
City Council members on Tuesday night agreed to rezone the land from residential to commercial, however Walmart must still receive state historical, environmental and transportation approval before they can move forward.