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State gets involved in fight over historic slave cemetery

1 year 6 months 5 days ago November 23, 2015 Nov 23, 2015 Monday, November 23 2015 November 23, 2015 5:31 PM in The Investigative Unit
Source: WBRZ

PLAQUEMINE - Tonight, the State is getting involved in a fight over a historic slave cemetery. The Attorney General's Office believes a church in town may have broken the law.

It all centers around the Revilletown Cemetery. It was purchased in 1881 by a slave named Robert Taylor. Taylor's family members sued when they found out that a church was billing for burials there. Tonight, the State says those charges were not legitimate. The Attorney General's Office issued a cease and desist order instructing the church to immediately stop charging for burials. All of this as questions remain over what the church was doing with that money.

The church, Mount Zion Baptist Number One is not allowed to charge folks for burials at the historic gravesite where a slave and his descendants are buried. The guidelines are laid out in a lengthy cease and desist order.

"It finally recognized there were some people doing some illegal stuff," Plaintiff Janice Dickerson said.

All of Dickerson's loved ones are buried at the cemetery. Earlier this year, a judge ruled against Dickerson siding with Axiall Chemical Plant, as the owner of the cemetery. It happened even though she had a deed still filed with the Iberville Parish Courthouse dating back to 1881 claiming ownership. Earlier this year, we showed you Shirley Oliver received a $600 check for a burial. 

"I don't want to discuss it," Oliver said back in February. "I'm not discussing it."

The cease and desist order was served to Oliver.

It refers tot he Mount Zion Church Oliver works for as Revilletown in the documents. It says, "Revilletown is currently operating without a valid subsisting and unsuspended certificate of authority which is in violation of the law. It also says Revilletown has violated the Louisiana Cemetery Act since they've been taking money and not keeping records as to who is buried there.

"If we don't fight to preserve it's going to be destroyed," Dickerson said. "We're not talking about the history in the cemetery. Nine years out of slavery it was bought. It's so rich in history. We have veterans back there. So we have to save it. These people worked hard to purchase it nine years out of slavery."

As Dickerson continues her battle, she plants to take it to the next level.

"It has been a struggle," Dickerson said. "It has been a fight, but we are confident with a real court system instead of a kangaroo court system in Iberville Parish, we will prevail in Iberville Parish."

Dickerson says she's willing to appeal the Judge's ruling this year to the nation's highest court. Meanwhile, the church has 30 days to appeal the order that prevents it from charging for burials. Calls to the church were not returned.

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