The University of Georgia will rebury the bodies that were discovered during the construction of Baldwin Hall in December 2015. The remains of 105 individuals were found during work on the expansion of Baldwin Hall, which is adjacent to the Old Athens Cemetery. During the 19th century, the Old Athens Cemetery operated as the official town cemetery.
The reburial will be held as a public ceremony on March 20 at the Oconee Hill Cemetery. Dr. Gregory S. Broughton of the UGA School of Music will provide a vocal tribute. Speakers include UGA President Jere W. Morehead, the Honorable Judge Steve C. Jones of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, and Rev. Dr. Winfred M. Hope of Ebenezer Baptist Church, West.
"We are taking the necessary steps to ensure that these men, women and children are reinterred with the dignity and respect that they deserve," said Greg Trevor, UGA executive director of media communications, in a statement. "This has been our primary concern and commitment from the very first discovery at the Baldwin construction site, and we have never wavered in our resolve."
The construction of Baldwin Hall was temporarily stopped while the bodies were exhumed. Archaeologists from Southeastern Archaeological Services Inc. and bioarchaeologists with the UGA Department of Anthropology worked to exhume the bodies of the individuals.
Dr. Laurie Reitsema, an assistant professor in the university's anthropology department, along with a team of UGA graduate students, undergraduate students, and faculty worked to determine the characteristics of these individuals. Reitsema will share their findings in a public research presentation later this spring.
Early examination of the bodies led archeologists to believe that the remains belonged to individuals of European descent. Thirty samples from the remains were suitable for DNA analysis and the results revealed that those individuals were actually of African-American descent.
The university followed the guidelines listed by the State Archaeologist's Office throughout the process of exhuming the bodies and the expansion of Baldwin Hall continued in March 2016.
Baldwin Hall is an academic building that was constructed in 1938 and expanded in the 1940s. The new project will provide UGA with space for graduate teaching assistants to hold office hours and technology-enabled active learning classrooms.