COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - For 21 years, Reverend Dr. C. Medley Hayes has wanted to know the truth about the wooded lot across from his church, plainly labeled the Old Slave Cemetery at the intersection of 6th Avenue and 6th Street in downtown Columbus.
"I've wondered about whether this is a real cemetery or if it's a myth from days gone by that's been passed down through the years," he told WTVM.
"Historical records indicate that was location was one of two cemeteries that were laid out as past of the original planned city. For a period of time, this was the only designated cemetery location for blacks in Columbus," Deputy City Manager David Arrington said.
After months of research, city officials have not found records of actual burials at the site.
Tuesday, city council members approved $24,000 for a new archaeological survey to help determine if the area is in fact a final resting place for slaves.
Archaeologists will use probes and radar scanning to look below the earth. If anything pops up on their radar, they'll test the top soil to determine whether or not there are human remains buried below.
"If there are grave sites at that location, the city needs to make the necessary improvements and treat that as a cemetery location and show respect and dignity to those that are buried at that site," Arrington explained.
"I think it should be brought to rest as soon as possible so that all of us will know what we're looking at and what this area really is. The dead have always deserved a proper resting place," Reverend Hayes added.
Archaeologists are expected to start their work in the next week. The study will take about two months to complete.