Hidden next to Enterprise Rent-A-Car, is a cemetery which has been serving Murfreesboro’s Black community since 1887.
It’s a field full of heroes who served their country, including members of the famed Buffalo Soldiers. And the headstones represent many families’ ancestors.
“There are soldiers from the Spanish American War and every war in between,”Margaret McKinley of the African American Heritage Society explains. “And there is even a documented Vietnam veteran here.”
“A lot of people don’t know this place exists.”
The Benevolent Cemetary is an eight-acre tract of land with 320 graves marked.
“It was segregated,”McKinley states. “So all the African Americans were buried here.”
The Benevolent Cemetery’s residents who died witnessed the American Civil War and Reconstruction. They also experienced the injustices of Jim Crow South and marched in Civil Rights Movement.
The grounds were last buried here in 2002. They have been falling into disrepair since then.
“We owe it to the people that are here,”Mary Watkins, African American Heritage Society. “We want these people to know that they are gone, but we haven’t forgotten them.”
This history has been preserved by the Rutherford County African American Heritage Society. They also secured a Tennessee Historical Commission marker to honor the Benevolent Cemetery.
The National Register of Historic Places will now be considered for the cemetery thanks to recent assistance from Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Historic Preservation graduate students.
This will bring the long-storied cemetery and its difficult-to find location the attention they deserve.
The African American Historical Society hopes that the Benevolent Cemetery will be approved and receives the funds it requires for complete restoration.