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'They all have a legacy' | Plan to restore 101-year-old cemetery in St. Louis County

Washington Park Cemetery is the final resting place for some notable Black St. Louisans

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — There is an effort in St Louis County to acknowledge the people who came before us and show them respect.

Washington Park Cemetery is the final resting place for some notable Black St. Louisans.

“The first Black alderman, the first Black police sergeant, there’s a lot of history,” Aja Johnsun told 5 On Your Side.

But the 101-year-old cemetery has seen better days.

“Heartbreaking to drive up here with the children and see how unkempt it was,” said Miquilaue Young.

When she looks around Johnsun said she sees “desecration.” There are broken headstones. The grass has grown long in many places. There are some sections of the cemetery so overgrown with brush that gravesites are hard to reach. The Young family continues to search for family members buried there.

“Their 3rd and 4th great grandmothers are here. We haven’t been able to locate either one of them,” said Young.

Johnsun doesn’t have a relative in Washington Park Cemetery, but she has taken it upon herself to help bring back the dignity.

“I realize that we have to do this. It’s a heritage site so it needs to be treated like that,” she said.

Johnsun is now calling on the community to show up and clean up.

“People should be looking for ways to help instead of reasons not to,” she said. 

The physical effort is meant to not only beautify but to also recognize.

“They all mattered, and they all have a legacy,” Young said.

The project also helps families to rediscover those who came before them.

“This can help us connect so many dots,” Johnsun said.

“Remember who our ancestors were, remember the work that they put in,” said Young.

The work to restore Washington Park Cemetery is going to take time.

“It didn’t get like this overnight. So, it’s not going to be cleared overnight,” said Johnsun.

Keeping the cemetery in shape will also take a continued commitment.

“This is not something that you can just fix and walk away from,” said Johnsun.

The Saving Washington Park group is now organizing cleanup groups of volunteers. They’re in need of people with mowers and trimmers. If want to join them or learn more, click here.