LIBERTY, Mo. — On Saturday morning, Clay County African American Legacy will unveil a memorial to honor the legacy of more than 700 African Americans who were buried in unmarked graves in the Fairview-New Hope Cemetery in Liberty.

Shelton Ponder’s roots run deep in Liberty, at least 200 years.

“When they started this cemetery in 1858, they were burying some of my ancestors right here,” he said.

Ponder said back in the 1800s, many African Americans were buried in unmarked graves.

“We’ve been able to identify those, searching through records by some researchers who did diligent work over the last 2 or 3 years,” said AJ Byrd, Clay County African American Legacy president.

But now those more than 700 African Americans, some of whom are Ponder’s ancestors, will be remembered through the African American Legacy Memorial.

“The other day when they lowered it, that was probably the most exciting part of it because I felt like crying and screaming at the same time,” Ponder said, “not through pain but the exhilaration of watching this come together.”

Theresa Byrd, with the Clay County African American Legacy, said the memorial will allow the community to learn about people who shaped the town.

“Through revealing of the names, they are bringing the past to the forefront,” she said. “But not only are some of their names now mentioned but some of their contributions to Liberty and Clay County are brought to the forefront.”

“This is for those who never received the recognition, a stone or whatever,” Ponder said. “It means a lot to all of us.”

The memorial dedication starts Saturday at 9 a.m.