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Future vision of people walking through and enjoying the Dixonville Memorial

About Dixonville Cemetery

Today, Dixonville Cemetery is little more than a grassy knoll with a few broken grave markers inscribed with humble memories of departed souls. A half century ago, the grounds were a centerpiece of a tight-knit neighborhood, providing a well-worn pathway leading children to the local school, as well as a final resting place for both prominent and ordinary African- American citizens.

Burials occurred here from the mid-1800s to the 1960s, when much of the neighborhood was pushed down in the name of urban renewal. There are some 500 documented burials here since 1910, based on local historian Betty Dan Spencer’s research. But there were likely hundreds more. The oldest gravesite known is Mary Valentine’s, who died in 1851. Some of the more prominent African Americans in Salisbury are thought to be buried here. They include Bishop John Jamison Moore, who founded the AME Zion Church in western North Carolina; and the Rev. Harry Cowan, a legendary minister who was born into slavery but went on to establish 49 churches and baptize 8,500 people. It was Cowan who after the Civil War and emancipation established Dixonville Baptist Church, which became today’s First Calvary Baptist, standing just north of the cemetery.

Salisbury’s east side urban renewal began in 1963 with the demolition of the old Shaver Street Grocery. Forty buildings were down by the end of the year, and in all, 230 structures were demolished and replaced by new public housing. Long Street was realigned and widened to accommodate anticipated industrial development. Overall, 197 families were displaced over the five-year project, and others separated by the new highway. Today, only the boarded-up Lincoln School and this patch of ground maintained as a city cemetery remain of what people once called Dixonville.

The future of this treasured place is now in the hands of the whole community. Its revitalization will be a catalyst for further progress in the area. In 2010, Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz initiated a task force to create a Dixonville Cemetery community memorial to raise the prominence of the early African- American cemetery, interpret its history and pay respects to all those buried here. Several improvements have since been implemented, but the overall masterplan has yet to be realized. The task force is ready with a design and plan to bring this important African- American cemetery’s history alive— a place where birds still sing, trees still grow and people still remember.

A City of Salisbury, NC project.
We invite you to participate in this historic project! Contact us for more information or about naming opportunities or to join our task force. Or, you can follow us on facebook at

Looking for information about the Memorial Groundbreaking? Check out our Press Kit:

Press Kit
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