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Ceremony held for dedication of plantation gravesites

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CONVENT, LA - Hundreds of people gathered today at two cemeteries where more than a thousand slaves and their descendants are buried.

The soulful and spiritual ceremony was held at the Shell Oil Refinery in Convent, Louisiana. More than 300 people gathered to dedicate and acknowledge the Monroe and Brusly Plantation Cemeteries.

Before the property was owned by Shell, the area was used as farmland where sugar cane was grown and harvested on top of the gravesites.

Plant manager, Hughes Bourgogne spoke during the ceremony. 

"Knowing that people were buried on our land, we had to do something about it," Bourgogne said. "We decided it was time to remove it from agricultural production, create a buffer so that it would be preserved."

Kathe Hambrick is the curator of the River Road African American Museum and did research on the cemeteries. 

"The future children deserve to know if their ancestors were part of the industry that fueled sugar," Hambrick said. 

Offerings of food were brought to the dead buried at the grave sites. And musicians beat African drums.

Emmanuel Mitchell believes his relatives are buried there. His last name is on one of the very few grave markers. 

"My great-great grandfather is from this area," Mitchell told WBRZ.

The cemeteries are now undergoing a beautification project, with upgrades to mark the location and finally acknowledge that people are buried there. Researchers say there are many more cemeteries where enslaved people are buried, but they've yet to be located in Louisiana.

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