1873 Birds Eye View Map detail with cemetery

Detail of 1873 Bird's Eye View map of Austin with cemetery

Historic Colored Grounds

National Endowment for the Humanities Grant

The Oakwood Cemetery Chapel staff seeks descendants of African American, Mexican American, and European American heritage buried in a three-acre segregated section of Oakwood Cemetery to participate in a vision session with Oakwood’s Historic Preservation and Archeology project specialists, Dr. Maria Franklin, Dr. Tara Dudley, and Diana M. Hernández.

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 by email.

Download a PDF about the project.

Additional Information

Information about the NEH Grant

Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the goal of this grant is to construct a digital model of the "Historic Colored Grounds." Those buried here in the 1800s were of African American, Mexican American, and European American heritage and were segregated due to race and class.

Less than 300 monuments exist in this three-acre area that holds thousands of burials. Therefore, it is difficult for the public to imagine that this grassy area is full of the unmarked graves of people who were marginalized in both life and in death.

Poorly kept and incomplete records add to the frustrations of people researching their ancestors or cultural history.

This Level I grant project is for a 3D model of monuments to add the potential burial locations of thousands of graves that people cannot “see.” Our model of this area combines historic data - photo, video, exhibits and legacy maps with lidar to complete the 3D representation.

You Could Be a Descendant

Oakwood Cemetery staff member Greg Farrar researched burial records to create 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
  • Yerwood

Greg Farrar is employed at the Oakwood Cemetery Chapel and the George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural and Genealogy Center. He is also descended from Reuben Shannon Lovinggood, the first President of Samuel Huston College, now Huston-Tillotson University.

How You Can Participate

If you are interested, please contact Jennifer Chenoweth by email or calling (512) 978-2310.

Participants will be asked to attend small group meeting to discuss the project and ideas via a recorded Zoom call. They are also invited to record an oral history about their family and provide photos and documents to be scanned. Recorded discussions will take place between February and April 2022. Scans of photos and recordings will be made available to families as keepsakes, free of charge.

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. 

Additional Information

The community engagement 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.

Dr. Maria Franklin is a professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a historical archaeologist who works on African diaspora sites. Franklin’s current research focuses on the post-emancipation experiences of Black Texans.

Dr. Tara Dudley is a member of the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture with expertise in Architectural History and Historic Preservation. Her research methodology includes creative utilization of archival resources and conducting oral histories.

Diana M. Hernández is an educator and researcher on issues of language, diversity and preservation. She is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in Historic Preservation at the University of Texas School of Architecture, documenting Mexican American cemeteries.

Research and Education

Save Austin's Cemeteries

 Save Austin's Cemeteries

Genealogical Research

 Genealogical Research

Self-Guided Tours

 Self-Guided Tours

During the Chapel’s public hours, individuals and small groups are welcome to stop by to visit the Chapel and see our exhibits. Many visitors are looking for a specific gravesite, and we are happy to help find it. Maps of the grounds are available in print and online, and we are happy to greet and orient visitors for self-guided tours.

Maps

 

Virtual Reality tour of "Historic Old Grounds" and Oakwood Cemetery Chapel

 

Educational Programs

 Educational Programs

Oakwood stories create engaging past, present and future learning tools for students of all ages. We work with educators to create learning programs that expand on human knowledge and the possibilities of imagination.

Orientation Videos

Scheduled Group Tours

 Scheduled Group Tours

The Cemetery Operations Division gives guided tours of all five of Austin's municipal cemeteries. Contact by email to schedule a tour for your large or small group. 

The Oakwood Staff are available to answer your questions and orient you to the Oakwood Cemetery during our open hours.

At the Chapel, we welcome group visits by reservation so we can best accommodate your interests and needs. Email (oakwoodchapel@austintexas.gov) or call (512) 978-2310.

We enjoy telling stories about the history of Austin to our visitors.

City of Austin Cemetery Operations Information

 City of Austin's Cemetery Operations

City of Austin Cemetery Operations 

For information on how to find a specific grave, contact Cemetery Operations at 512-798-2320 or email cemeteries@austintexas.gov For information on basic monument care, or how to apply for the Cemetery Improvement Process, contact Cemetery Operations directly.