Uncovering ⁤the History of Dallas’ ‌Freedmen’s Cemetery

Texas Red granite archway marks the entrance to the Freedmen’s Cemetery Memorial. Two niches, located on either side of the arch, are adorned with life-size bronze figures (one in each niche). The free-standing figure on the left of the entrance, the so-called “Sentinel” or “Warrior,” is dressed in clothes inspired by the Benin culture of West Africa. Text source: Freedman’s Cemetery Memorial (Dallas, TX) · Contemporary Monuments to the Slave Past (slaverymonuments.org). Source of all images in GGGS blog: thelesters.co)


Uncovering the History of Dallas’ Freedmen’s Cemetery

You can hear and feel the heartbeat of Dallas, Texas, as feet and vehicle traffic is nearby the renovated burial grounds that house the remains of between 5,000 and 7,000 slaves, former slaves, freed Blacks, and their descendants. Here lies the historic territory known ​as the Freedmen’s Cemetery. ‍

It is a sacred site with history that dates to the 186os when the first Black slaves were buried on what was then known as “Freedman’s” town, a place founded by Blacks in the 1850s. The giant arch that is at today’s entry gate to Freedmen’s Cemetery, was the original site that welcomed its residents to the “Freedman’s” community.

Cemeteries, especially those containing the histories of Blacks whose pasts are often forgotten, buried in the historical documents and long forgotten in the storytelling about ancestors.  The Freedmen’s Cemetery is a place where stories of struggle, triumph whisper through the winds to tell its special history of its enduring spirit of a community.

Exploring the Origins​⁢ of Dallas’ ⁤Freedmen’s ​Cemetery

During and after the U.S. Civil War, Black slaves and freed ones settled in many areas away from their enslavers and Texas was once the most plentiful state for such “free towns” or “free colonies.” The Freedmen’s‌ Cemetery in Dallas was created to provide a dignified burial⁤ place.  It was an active burial site between 1869 through 1907, remaining completed supported by Freeman’s town. The area was approximately a mile long in the community of Deep Ellum, Dallas.

The cemetery somehow became forg

otten. In the mid-1940s, the city of Dallas and the federal highway system, built the North Central Expressway and it cut right through the cemetery. The local authorities removed the gravestones and covered the remainder of the center with what became a city park. Some 50 years later in the summer of 1990, the Freedmen’s Cemetery burial ground was “found” after a park renovation. Shortly after, more than 800 marked graves were found. Some 1,200 unmarked graves were found and relocated.

It was also in 1990 that the Freedman’s Cemetery Memorial was created to honor those that were buried. The remembrances brought about community healing.  Today, the

cemetery memorial connects a cemetery tour in Uptown, Dallas, and sits near the Emanu-El Cemetery, the Calvary Cemetery, and the Greenwood Cemetery.  Since 1992, Freedmen’s Cemetery is a Dallas Landmark .  It has been a part of the State Historic Marker program in Texas since 1993.


Preserving ​the Legacy and bringing Healing ⁤

According to the North Dallas Cultural Center’s “Freedmen’s Memorial: A Place for Healing”:

“Freedman’s Cemetery was one of the largest Freedman Cemeteries in the Country. It was established as a burial ground for Dallas’ early African American population in 1861. The site represents the remnants of the once-thriving North Dallas community which from the Civil War to the 1970s was the largest segregated African American enclave in Dallas and one of the largest in the United States.”