Some things are not expected. They may bring you great joy or great pain, or both. On July 25, a small group of family members who are descendants of Sallie Bullock toured the remnants of a slave cemetery at the old Clearview Plantation near the Virginia line in Warren County.

We saw on the faces of the participants remnants of the pain suffered by our foreparents. We also saw a mixture of hope and anticipation for giving voice to the voiceless.

There were no names on the rocks or stones that serve as headstones. Seeing the canopy and foliage of trees removed was an emotional time for all of the relatives that traveled to the cemetery. Yet, there still remains a sense of tranquility that lies deeply in the hearts and minds of our family members. There is both history and future embedded deep in this earthly resting place.

The kinship and common blood ran warm among us, both African-Americans and Caucasians, sharing a deep sadness for the suffering of our great-great-grandparents and slave descendants, coupled with the desire to celebrate their lives and give them the honor and recognition they deserve. We cannot undo the past. We cannot recreate history. We do not wish to stop progress, but rather to guide progress in a way that is honorable, just and befitting to our ancestors.

We believe there is a common interest in Warren County and beyond to locate and restore or preserve the gravesites of those who gave their lives and their freedom to help create the America we live in. Our lives and our future depend upon the foundation built by our foreparents, be they slaves or slave owners. Let’s recognize and honor them by locating, protecting and preserving their gravesites. They are both a reminder of our past and a guide for our future. This is a golden opportunity to make sure history does not repeat itself in a divisive and destructive way. Let’s move forward, working together for a common good. Let’s make our ancestors proud of who we are today.