Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Call for Descendants of People of Color Buried in Oakwood Cemetery


National Endowment for the Humanities Grant-Funded Engagement Project

The Oakwood Cemetery Chapel staff seeks descendants of people of color buried in the Oakwood Cemetery to participate in a vision session with Oakwood’s Historic Preservation and Archaeology project specialists. If you are a descendant of someone buried at Oakwood Cemetery, or have information on those individuals, please call Jennifer Chenoweth, Museum Site Coordinator for the Oakwood Cemetery Chapel, at 512-978-2310 or email Jennifer.Chenoweth@AustinTexas.gov.  

Recorded discussions will take place between February and April 2022. Participants will be asked to attend a recorded small group meeting to discuss the project and ideas via Zoom. They may also record an oral history about their family, and Oakwood Chapel staff may scan photos and documents to help preserve their family heritage. Family trees and genealogy records from descendants are very important to this project. Scans of photos and recordings will be made available to families as keepsakes, free of charge. This project was funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant. 

Feedback from descendants will help imagine the digital 3D model of the thousands of unmarked graves in this area, providing public recognition of the men, women and children buried in this area who are tagged or geolocated to the burial section. As the cemetery is an historic site, there will not be physical changes to the grounds. However, using technology we can present what the area would look like if every burial had a headstone. This research adds to our collective memory of the history of Austin, Texas, and the American South. 

Oakwood Cemetery staff member Greg Farrar researched over 2,700 burials within a 3+ acre section of Oakwood Cemetery and has created a list of all known individuals buried in this area. Some of the family names from burials dating back to the 1860s include Anderson, Banton, Brown, Butler, Carrington, Coleman, Davis, Dedrick, Dodson, Freeman, Green, Gregg, Hamilton, Harris, Harrison, Hill, Holland, Jackson, Johnson, Jones, Madison, Moore, Owens, Pollard, Ramey, Robinson, Scott, Shaw, Stewart, Taylor, Thomas, Thompson, Washington, White, Williams, Wilson, Wright, and Yerwood. Greg is descended from Reuben Shannon Lovinggood, the first President of Samuel Huston College, now Huston-Tillotson University. 

The community engagement project will be facilitated by Dr. Laura Cortez of Cortez Consulting, with subject matter experts Dr. Maria Franklin, Dr. Tara Dudley and Diana M. Hernández. Parks and Recreation staff will complete research recommendations with help from the community and local archives. 

For more information about this effort, explore All Together Here: A Community Symposium for Discovery and Remembrance.  


About Mara Franklin 
Dr. Maria Franklin received her education at the University of California at Berkeley. Her expertise is in historical archaeology, archaeological theory, African Diaspora studies, race and gender, and feminist theory. Dr. Maria Franklin is an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas, where she has a joint appointment in the Department of Anthropology and the Center for African and African American Studies. 

About Tara Dudley 
Dr. Tara Dudley received her education at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture, having obtained her doctorate in Architectural History and her master’s degree in Historic Preservation. Her research methodology includes creative utilization of archival resources and conducting oral histories. 

About Diana M. Hernández  
Diana M. Hernández is an educator and an independent researcher on issues of language, diversity, and preservation. Diana holds an M.A. in Spanish Language, Literature and Culture from the University of Houston and a B.A. in Public Relations and Spanish Language, Literature and Culture from the University of Houston. She is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in Historic Preservation at the University of Texas, documenting Mexican American cemeteries.