Vandals deface Haley family tombstone with racial message
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SAVANNAH, Tenn. — The headstone of an ancestor of famed author Alex Haley is defaced in Hardin County. “If hate is inside of you, hate will do nothing but eat you up,” Greg Cherry, a descendant of Queen Haley, said. Just a day after their family reunion, a message that reads “White Lives Matter” appeared on Queen Haley’s grave. She was hated by many when it was revealed she was bi-racial. “Everyone turned their back on her and treated her disgracefully,” Cherry said. Queen Haley is also an early ancestor of Alex Haley, an author and journalist known for penning the book “Roots,” later adapted into a TV miniseries. “Not once did he mention we should be proud because we’re black,” Cherry said. “He just said to be proud of where you came from and where you are now.” Some in Savannah believe the vandalism in the cemetery could stem from other issues. “Heritage is one thing, but everybody’s discussed what that flag means,” resident Leroy White III said. Recent discussion to possibly bring a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and KKK leader, to the community is just one reason. “You’ll see that flag being involved in all of those massacres, hangings, lynchings of African American people,” White said. Some residents fly the controversial flags. Many of them say it’s part of Southern heritage. But Cherry said he’s stayed quiet long enough, and with the message written directly on the family grave, it’s time to get involved with the discussion. “I’m hurt someone would think only one life matters when we all matter,” Cherry said. Savannah Police Chief Gary Will Jr. released a statement saying, “Everyone matters, and their memory matters. There’s no justification for vandalizing anyone’s grave markers. On behalf of the city of Savannah, I want to apologize to the Haley family for the outrageous conduct of person or persons responsible, and we will do our best to find them.” Officials say it could take a while to find the vandal or vandals because there are no cameras in the cemetery. Community members are hosting a meeting to address issues involving the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue at 6 p.m. Monday inside Graham Chapel CME Church. The church is located at 90 Clifton Road in Savannah.