Six graves found at Upper Arlington High School
A team of archaeologists discovered one fully intact grave, two partially exhumed graves and three fully exhumed graves from Litchford Cemetery to the north and northeast of the science wing, according to the school district.
Six graves from Litchford Cemetery recently were found at Upper Arlington High School.
A team of archaeologists discovered one fully intact grave as well as two that had partially exhumed and three that had been fully exhumed in the past, according to the school district.
"The remains were removed with great care and will be secured in the archaeology lab as we work with Mr. Litchford's descendants and families who may have had ancestors buried at the site to determine the appropriate next steps to properly honor those individuals and commemorate the history of the site," Superintendent Paul Imhoff said in an email to families in the district Aug. 23.
Pleasant Litchford, a blacksmith and former slave, bought his freedom and moved to the area that is now Upper Arlington from Virginia sometime before 1842, according to the Upper Arlington Historical Society.
Litchford helped establish a school for African American children and was a founding member of the historic Second Baptist Church, according to the district.
Litchford bought the land that is now Upper Arlington High School as well as Northam Park and Tremont Elementary School. He used the land for his house, blacksmith shop and a cemetery for his family and friends, according to the district. He died in 1879.
The district has had archaeologists digging up parts of the high school parking lot to see if any graves remained and an initial dig in July "turned up only remnants from construction projects at the current high school," Imhoff said in an email Aug. 21 to families in the district.
The graves were found to the north and northeast of the science wing, according to the district. The graves were initially found Aug. 21, and the archaeological team completed its work in the area Aug. 22.
"While we certainly knew finding human remains was a possibility, it has been a day of reflection for everyone involved," Imhoff said in an email to families Aug. 21. "The cemetery and the people who were laid to rest there are an important part of our community's history, and we are committed to honoring that history."
When the current Upper Arlington High School was built in the 1950s, about 30 bodies were exhumed from the Litchford Cemetery and moved to other cemeteries.
Upper Arlington city officials referred questions about the graves to the school district. The district said it is working to include Litchford in history classes taught at the high school.
"We are also updating our local history curriculum to include the contributions of Mr. Litchford and his family, as well as others whose stories have gone untold for many years," Imhoff said in his Friday email to families.
Kim Starr, an Upper Arlington native and co-author of the book "Secrets Under the Parking Lot," helped post signs about the history of Litchford and his family on the fence between the current Upper Arlington High School and the site for the new school building Aug. 24.
"Why are we not taught this?" she asked. "Why are we covering up this rich history about an individual that people should be so extremely proud of?"
Litchford's history is both telling and tragic, said Hasan Kwame Jeffries, an associate history professor at Ohio State University.
"It's telling because you get a window into this very rich and often ignored history," he said.
"But it's also tragic because it literally is the desecration of not just Black history, but the physical remains of Black people.
"It's history that we ought to take the time to understand."