IRVING, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – The birthday of Martin Luther King Junior served as the inspiration for a project to restore dignity and respect to a cemetery where slaves are buried.

More than 100 volunteers spent the day helping clean up the Shelton Bear Creek Cemetery in Irving.

This cemetery was on private land for more than 60 years and became overgrown and unattended during that time.

Now it’s getting overdue attention and offering a history lesson to those who went there Monday to clean it up.

Shelton Bear Creek Cemetery in Irving (J.D. Miles – CBS11)

The tranquil graveyard near Highways 183 and 161 was disturbed Monday by the sound of leaf blowers, tree trimmers and rakes.

But they were a welcome sight to Jamie Simon who’s great grandparents are buried there.

More than 200 slaves and their children have headstones at the Shelton Bear Creek Cemetery.

Local civil rights groups have gathered on MLK Day the last few years to clean up the cemetery and make any needed repairs.

Volunteer John Turek brought more than two dozen of his students from St. Mark’s School in Dallas to turn Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday into a learning experience.

“I’m sure there are countless places like this around the United States and we can’t forget our history, the good and bad and this represents a bad time in our country, but by the same token, today is a good day in our country,” said Turek.

Civil rights groups succeeded in getting this cemetery designated as a state historical site.

Monday’s effort repaired fencing, removed overgrown tree limbs and placed flags and flowers at every headstone.