Decision Reached on Fate of Oakwood Cemetery's Unidentified Graves

City will exhume and re-inter 25 bodies discovered in former "colored grounds"

Decision Reached on Fate of Oakwood Cemetery's Unidentified Graves
photo by Montinique Monroe

The city's Parks and Recreation Department reached a final decision regarding the 25 unidentified graves found underneath the chapel at Oakwood Cemetery in November, choosing to stick to its initial recommendation to exhume and re-inter the burials in close proximity to the chapel. The city divided the historic Eastside cemetery into three separate sections in 1859 – one of them known as the "Colored Grounds," for people of color who lived in Austin. The cemetery's chapel was built on the colored grounds in 1914 over occupied land, something not realized until bone fragments were discovered near the chapel last fall. PARD and District 1 City Council Member Ora Houston held a series of public meetings over the winter and spring to brainstorm possible solutions to the discovery, but ultimately PARD went with its own solution – based on professional feedback, precedent cases, and requests from the family members of those interred within the segregated section of the cemetery, according to a final report published by PARD in late April. Archeolo­gists began exhumation work on Monday, but no burials have been removed yet. The process is expected to last five weeks and will be followed by a commemoration of the burials. PARD writes that the burial discoveries "provide an opportunity for the City of Austin to acknowledge a past injustice."

Link to PARD report

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