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COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: Third Person Project works to uncover Wilmington’s buried history

Third Person Project is a non-profit organization that works to uncover buried history
Third Person Project is a non-profit organization that works to uncover buried history(Third Person Project)
Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 4:59 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - For decades after The Daily Record was burned to the ground during the 1898 massacre in Wilmington, it was believed that there were no copies left of the black-owned newspaper.

“You often see that in writing about 1898 — that there was this very important African American newspaper that, sadly, no copies survived,” John Sullivan said.

Sullivan is the co-founder of a non-profit organization in Wilmington called Third Person Project. He and Joel Finsel made it a mission to find copies of the paper — and they did. Seven copies are known to exist, and three of those are now safely stored at the Cape Fear Museum.

That discovery was revealed in 2019. Now, just two years later, the scholars and history buffs who make up the Third Person Project organization announced another historical find. It’s the group that recently discovered two gravesites of 1898 victims in Pine Forest Cemetery. Joshua Halsey was the first grave and Samuel McFarland was the second.

“These graves needed to be found and we figured out where they are but in the process of that, we were exposed to Pine Forest itself to the incredible depth of history there,” Sullivan said. “People know how important it is but it’s even more important than they think.”

The Third Person Project’s mission is to uncover buried history — especially any history that was lost because of social injustices.

Sullivan said while cash donations are always needed, they really need more community involvement.

“We’re looking for citizen archivists. You know, that’s kind of a hot term right now and Wilmington needs it. We’ve digitized the Pine Forest registry which is 900 pages and now we need help to transcribe it,” he said

The goal is for family members to be able to look in a guide book and know just where to go.

Third Person Project represents a cross section of races and genders, but Sullivan would like to see more African American participation.

“I think the Black community here is justifiably sick of white people sort of parachuting in and telling them what happened to their own families and their own churches,” he said.

If you would like to make a donation to the Third Person Project and inquire about joining the mission of the non-profit organization, click here.

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