African-American Bodies Stolen from Graves: The Dark Past of Old Medical College of Georgia

1 Posted by - August 2, 2022 - BLACK MEN, LATEST POSTS, SLAVERY

Grave robbing was carried out in many cases. The Old Medical College of Georgia has a history behind it of stealing the bodies of dead once enslaved black people. The grave robbing was carried out by a 36-year-old Gullah slave who was purchased by the Old Medical College of Georgia for the tasks.


Grandison Harris’ (also known as “The Resurrection Man”) assignment was to rob the graves of deceased African Americans at Augusta’s Cedar Grove Cemetery. Although it was against the law to teach slaves to read and write, the faculty and students at the college taught Harris to do both.

Harris used his education to read the obituaries and other death notices. He would then go to Cedar Grove to study the locations of the graves of the newly dead. At night he would remove the bodies from the grave and carry them away in a big sack. He was known to put the flowers and other objects back perfectly in their original locations.

After the Civil War and the freedom to slaves Harris continued his employment at the college for $8 a month, and continued robbing the graves of the black communities. The practice was a common at many medical colleges around the world due to a shortage of legal cadavers. However, the practice ended for good in 1889 when the African American residents of Augusta found out what had taken place. When the black community found out a riot almost took place. Harris died in 1911 from heart failure and ironically enough he sleeps in a grave a Cedar Grove Cemetery.



1 Comment

  • Juaquita Callaway January 20, 2019 - 1:39 pm

    What a wonderful thing that this dark history finally came to light in1998. For over one and a half centuries, this institution hid the source of the cadavers from which the earliest Medical College of Goergia students learned their human anatomy.
    The history of the “dedicated medical students” who were willing to go and exhume unknown paupers from the paupers cemetery to acquire knowledge was told to me as a medical student to explain the skull and cross bone insignia on the school’s class ring.

    No one ever told the truth about the source during my years of study there. (I’m sure there were those who wanted this to stay a secret). Some how I knew that symbol was attached to a dark, ugly secret and I never wore one.

    “And the truth shall make you free” John 8:32