The Mount Auburn Cemetery is Baltimore’s oldest black cemetery, and one of the oldest black cemeteries in the country, holding over 55,000 families. Dating back to 1872, the cemetery was the known resting place of Joseph Gans, the first lightweight boxing champ, civil rights activist Carl Murphy and John Henry Murphy, the founder of the Afro-American newspaper. But after centuries of neglect, the Mount Auburn Cemetery had become a wilted mess, with relatives unable to find their loved ones.

The owners of the cemetery, the Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church, have had a difficult time keeping up with the $25,000 annual upkeep cost.

Recently the State Department of Corrections got involved and inmates have restored the historical cemetery to its rightful majesty. A place once called “The City of the Dead for Colored People” is now a renewal assignment for over 40 inmates.

Gary Maynard, the Secretary for the state’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, got involved with the citywide restoration projects, believing that inmates could contribute to the city’s beautification efforts in more ways than trash pickup. In the past five years, the inmates have planted 50 million oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, built a retaining wall along the C&O Canal, and restored the woods north and west of the Antietam Battlefield.

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