A group of volunteers led by Courtney Lanier are literally uncovering Sanford history while making the community better.
Lanier’s group, New Sanford Initiative (Facebook), is removing years of overgrown bushes, trees and weeds at Page-Jackson Cemetery, Sanford’s first black cemetery. Most of the 21-acre cemetery is maintained by the city of Sanford, but 6 acres lie in unincorporated Seminole County. Gravesites in that portion of the cemetery were maintained by churches and fraternal organizations that no longer exist, and the area is severely overgrown.
So far the volunteers have uncovered some important gravesites that have national significance.
Drew “Bundini” Brown’s grave was cleared of brush recently. Brown was born in Midway and grew up in Sanford. He was a cornerman for heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. It was Brown who came up with many of Ali’s legendary quotes, such as, “float like a butterfly sting like a bee.”
Volunteers have also found the family plot for nationally know folk artist and author Zora Neale Hurston at the Page-Jackson Cemetery (though Hurston is buried in Fort Pierce, Fla.). Hurston is most often associated with Eatonville, but she spent most of her childhood in Goldsboro, the city founded in part by her father before it was eliminated by infamous Sanford mayor Forrest Lake in 1911.
“Zora spent most of her time in Sanford,” said Francis Oliver, founder of the Goldsboro Museum. (A brief history of Goldsboro)
Lanier and the New Sanford Initiative will be working this Saturday, Jan. 16, and they need your help. In addition to volunteers, the group is looking for gloves, chainsaws, rakes, weedeaters, as well as donations for gasoline and refreshments for volunteers. The group would also like to rent a chipper to recycle the fallen trees and branches.
For more information contact Courtney Lanier (Facebook | NewSanford@gmail.com).