New signage will honor forgotten African Americans Civil War soldiers and public servants who served our country

Mayor Dana Redd and Camden Police Chief Thompson will join other public officials from the County and City of Camden and the students from UrbanPromise (K-12) and remember those buried at Johnson Cemetery at 38th and Federal Streets at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, May 22, 2015. 

Johnson Cemetery is located on Federal Street at Terrace Avenue, only a few hundred feet away from UrbanPromise Academy High School.  In 2012 the students’ in their U.S. Government class were were studying the Civil War unaware of the history buried across the street.

When the students learned that Veteran soldiers who fought for the 54th Regiment of the Union Army in the Civil War, as well as veterans from the Spanish-American War were laid to rest in Johnson Cemetery, they chose to work to restore dignity to these grounds. Students felt compelled to act with the knowledge that the park was and still is a cemetery, they felt it was now their responsibility to reinstate honor to the cemetery.

After spending weeks working to maintain the grounds at Johnson Cemetery, the senior class petitioned the Camden City Council to make a proclamation stating that the students of UrbanPromise Academy will take the charge of maintaining the grounds of Johnson Cemetery. In December of 2012, President Moran guaranteed Camden City and Camden County’s support of the Johnson Cemetery Restoration and Maintenance Project before all students of UrbanPromise Academy. After President Moran visited the Academy the Camden City Council passed an official resolution making the school “Friends of Johnson Memorial Park” on February 12, 2013. In so doing, the City Council honored the service of the UPA seniors while guaranteeing the future maintenance of Johnson Cemetery.

During a cleanup a student uncovered a tombstone that had been veiled by overgrown grass. The engraving read, “Gone but not forgotten.” For Jim Cummings, Director of the Experiential Learning Program at UrbanPromise, “It is what our efforts in the cemetery are all about—paying tribute to and recognizing those who long ago were buried at that cite. He isn’t forgotten.”

“Johnson's Cemetery should be something that people know about.  And one day it will be.  It is a part of African American history.  These are our first soldiers.  And buried there is the first black police officer in Camden.  People buried there have made a difference in this country even when they weren’t being granted the same rights as others,” shared UrbanPromise Academy student, Faith Kroma, at an UrbanPromise event.  Listening to her speak that night, an UrbanPromise donor, Jane Murphy, decided to make a donation to have a sign placed at the park in their honor.

It is appropriate to dedicate the sign as part of a Memorial celebration while the students are still in school.  Gathering will begin at 9:45 with flag placement by students.  The Dedication Ceremony will begin at 10:00 a.m. with the Woodrow Wilson High School’s Color Guard. 

Invited guests and speakers include: Mayor Dana Redd, Camden Police Chief Thompson, Fire Chief Harper, Camden County Freeholders Cappelli, Gentek and McDonnell, and City Council President Frank Moran.