Lee Street Riot: Experts look at rumored mass grave site at Holly Oak Cemetery in Pineville

Back on January 10, 1942, a riot occurred on Lee Street in Alexandria, where hundreds of soldiers may have died.
Published: Oct. 27, 2020 at 4:08 PM CDT
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PINEVILLE, La. (KALB) - Expert researchers and historians spent Tuesday at Holly Oak Cemetery in Pineville, searching for a rumored mass gravesite.

Back on January 10, 1942, a riot occurred on Lee Street in Alexandria.

Cenla Historian Michael Wynne tells KALB he and many others believe a number of African American soldiers were killed that night and buried in a mass grave that’s now home to Holly Oak Cemetery.

To uncover the truth, four nationally known researchers, including Dr. Douglas Bristol and Dr. David Holt from the University of Mississippi, brought a penetrating radar device to the cemetery Tuesday.

For several hours, the experts took photos using the device, flagging any spots of interest for future reference.

Wynne tells KALB he and the researchers will do everything they can to uncover the truth about what he calls the ‘massacre.’

“African American soldiers from Camps Livingston, Clayborn and Beauregard were there on a Saturday night to enjoy themselves. Something happened that night. Possibly one of the soldiers got intoxicated and the white military police who were armed tried to arrest them, but something happened. For 78 years now, this incident has been mostly covered up or talked about in hush tones. We believe and many, many people around the United States believe there was a massive cover-up. We are trying to find the mass grave of these black soldiers. It is time after nearly eight decades to find the truth of what really happened on the night of Saturday, January 10, 1942. I think we’ll have an answer today as to whether or not this cemetery is the spot where the mass graves are. I’m hoping and praying that we can find out the truth to this great American mystery.”

Michael Wynne, Central Louisiana Historian

If any spots of interest are found, officials will then go through the process of digging up the site. Wynne says there is rumored to be anywhere from 20 to 300 bodies.

The team also went to Potter’s Field in Pineville to look at potential gravesites there.

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