|original crude hand-made gravemarker|
Its 14 acres were established as a resting place for the remains of African-American US veterans and members of their families. Most of these men served in the Civil War, the Plains Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War, World War I & II, and Korea.
The bodies of nearly 1,000 African-American veterans rest in this ground and most fought for their country despite not having equal rights at home under the law. Upon returning from their sacrifices they were still met with segregation and racism. These men came to be here because Jim Crow laws even applied to burials in many places in the US prior to the 1960's. Cincinnati was no different. There are several other segregated cemeteries with African-American veterans in the area including United American Cemetery and Beech Grove Cemetery.
Sadly, over the years, Hillcrest's private ownership fell into dispute. With no one caring for the grounds, the cemetery became vandalized and run down. Erosion had even exposed some graves and vaults to the point where bones were visible and groundhogs had taken up residence. No one wanted to assume responsibility for its maintenance. In 2002, the Ohio National Guard with assistance and funds from private, local and state organizations helped with the restoration of the property and replaced or restored many missing headstones for these forgotten men and their families.
Pvt Nelson Morrow of the US 24th Infantry Regiment was one of the "Buffalo Soldier" units organized of black men to fight in one of the many hundreds of confrontations with Native Americans. The US Army dubbed them the "Indian Wars" which occurred west of the Mississippi from the Civil War up until 1898. The Cheyenne supposedly came up with the term Buffalo Soldier because the curly black hair reminded them of buffalo fur. The Lakota called them black wasichu which meant "black white person".
Here also rests an American paradox. Morrow is a young post Civil War "free" black man sent off by his country to kill or force another group of individuals into Indian reservations only to return home and live out his days in segregation even upon his death. Pvt Morrow probably felt he was doing the right thing to get his share of the American Dream and improve his own lot in life or perhaps he had no real choice in the matter, but nonetheless his story still represents the struggle of two ethnic groups of Americans that certainly didn't get their piece of the freedom pie as easily as others... or at all. At any rate, it is good to see that the men buried here have at long last been given some respect and recognition by the local community in the country they served.