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

Within the cemetery a 3+ acre section was segregated by race and class in the 1800s. Substantial work is underway to learn about the individuals buried in this area. Many are buried in unmarked graves and are listed without full names in the records. The Oakwood Cemetery Chapel staff seeks descendants of African American, Mexican American, and European American heritage who are buried here  to participate in oral histories and genealogy research. In 2021, the Parks and Recreation Department was award a Digital Humanities Advancement Grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Subject matter experts Dr. Maria Franklin, Dr. Tara Dudley, and Diana M. Hernández participated in community engagement meetings with descendants in 2022 and have made recommendations for building the 3D digital model of this section of the cemetery that aligns with a geospatial database of records.

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.

Austin American-Statesman article by Madi Donham, February 7, 2022: call for descendants

KVUE article by Daranesha Herron, March 31, 2022: call for descendants

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.

Research and Education

Austin History Center 

Save Austin's Cemeteries

Carver Genealogy Center 

Austin Genealogical Society 

Travis County Historical Association 

Tejano Genealogical Society of Austin


Video Tours

Oakwood Cemetery Flyover [Video]

Section 1: The Southwest Quadrant [Video]

Section 2: The Southeast Quadrant [Video]

Section 3: The Northeast Quadrant [Video]

Section 4: The Northwest Quadrant [Video]

Section 4 A&B: “Historic Colored Grounds” [Video]