Local group asks for community help to restore and preserve historically black cemetery


STEELTON, Pa. (WHTM) — A local group is reaching out to the community to ask for help saving a piece of history.

Historic Midland Cemetery is a historically black burial ground that holds a lot of important people. Many of them are veterans, which is why they’re holding an event on Memorial Day weekend that doubles as a fundraiser.

Barbara Barksdale is the founder and president of Friends of Midland, a group dedicated to restoring and preserving the cemetery.

“When I’m being introduced I am the cemetery lady,” Barksdale said. “There’s a lot of pieces of the puzzle and a lot of history here.”

Her roots run deep there, with her grandfather and multiple other relatives buried on the grounds.

“That just took off. From trying to find my grandfather’s grave to exposing all this wonderful wonderful history that is buried in these hallowed grounds,” Barksdale said.

History is exactly what they’ve found. Robert Lee Williams Jr. is a volunteer with Friends of Midland.

“Slaves, there’s state troopers, there’s Tuskeegee Airmen, pastors and teachers, people that have made a difference in this community,” Williams said.

They’ve done a lot of work to clean up the cemetery.

“I’ve heard so many stories over the years where people had to come in with their sickles and little push mowers and try to create a pathway to get to their ancestor,” Barksdale said.

Now it’s in much better shape, but they need help and donations to keep it up.

“We just want to share with everyone what rich history we have here right in Steelton in their backyard,” Williams said.

On Saturday, May 29 at 1 p.m. they are having a Memorial Day event at the cemetery both to honor the veterans buried there and to fundraise for preservation efforts.

“We need to take care of these people, take care of their gravesites and honor them and bless them with doing something good and honorable in their names,” Barksdale said.

“If you really don’t understand where you’ve once from, how do you know where you’re going?” Williams said.

You can find out more about the cemetery here.

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