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CoastLine is a variety news show, which airs Wednesdays from 12pm - 1pm on WHQR.Every week, we’ll look into issues that matter in the Cape Fear Region. Host Rachel Lewis Hilburn will interview expert guests and invite you to join the conversation.

CoastLine: Southport's John N. Smith Cemetery Holds Hundreds Of Unmarked Graves

John N. Smith Cemetery Restoration and Preservation, Inc.
John N. Smith Cemetery, Southport, NC

Archaeologists have determined that 900 graves lie unmarked at the John N. Smith Cemetery in Southport.  This African American Cemetery, located on Leonard Street in the heart of Southport, has stories both known and many that are yet to be uncovered.  The oldest headstone, with a date of death in 1874, belongs to John N. Smith himself.   While historians and archaeologists don’t know much about the cemetery’s namesake, they are in the process of locating more unmarked graves and trying to figure out who else might be buried there.   Today, we’re going to find out why we know so little about the people buried there, why this burial ground has been neglected for so long, and what the current efforts are to restore the grounds and learn more about the individual and collective history. 


Judy Gordon, a lifelong Southport resident, helped to establish the John N. Smith Cemetery Restoration and Preservation, Inc. where she is the Board Chair.

Gordon Walker is also a Member of the Board of John N. Smith Cemetery Restoration and Preservation, Inc.

Sarah Lowry is Director of Geophysics, Geophysics Specialist, and an Archaeologist at New South Associates, the firm that undertook the project to locate and establish the existence of the unmarked graves.