Originally located the edge of the city, this plot of land witnessed many changes as the neighborhood expanded around it. What is today a memorial was once a cemetery. The graves of scores of African Americans still lie beneath the surface.
By the late 1940s the cemetery that occupied this space for nearly a century was an overgrown tangle of weeds. The dwindling membership of the Beneficial Society of the Laboring Sons, unable to maintain the property, reached an understanding that the City would build a playground and erect a memorial.
In October 1949, city workers recorded the location of grave markers before bulldozing the area and burying head-stones under a layer of soil.
The Chapel Alley Park, a segregated "Whites only" playground, was erected above the cemetery. No memorial was established at that time.
By the 1990s the earlier history was nearly forgotten until a proposal by local residents to rename the adjacent alley, "Laboring Sons," prompted renewed interest in the historic site. The story of the site's past and a forgotten promise came to light.
Modern investigation techniques were used to confirm the existence of graves. A commission established in 2000 recommended the removal of the playground equipment, renaming the park Laboring Sons, and the creation of a
In 2013, more than half a century after the original agreement, the City dedicated this memorial.
James Bowens, a Negro arrested for an assault on a white woman, was forcibly removed from his jail cell and hanged. This illegal mob action preempted a scheduled hearing before a Magistrate. The victim was buried here on November 19, 1895.
The headstone of 2-year old Agnes C. Boyd, who died in 1905, was briefly uncovered in 2003 during landscaping work, then quickly reburied.
Over time the cemetery became a neglected eyesore, prompting local residents to petition the City to create a playground here. The playground (right) as it appeared in 2001.
Portions of the cemetery were surveyed using ground-penetrating radar to confirm the existence grave shafts. The yellow rectangles on the graph indicate probable graves.
In a 2003 rededication ceremony, children of the Jackson Angels/JYC Choir honor the memory of children buried in the Laboring Sons cemetery.