Comets remember Black history through Freedman’s Cemetery

Photo Courtesy of South Dallas Cultural Center



While commuting through Oak Lawn on North Central Expressway, you might notice solemn statues juxtaposed against deteriorating tombstones and graves. With a dedication to preserving lost history like this, Comets aims to strengthen the Black community on campus through several events and organizations.

The Freedmen’s Cemetery, 40 minutes from UTD, was established in 1861 near Central Expressway at Lemmon and since 1990 it has served as a memorial to the Black community’s efforts to protect their history. After the city of Dallas built the North Central Expressway, graves were lost and moved, but thanks to a community outcry and effort, the Freedmen’s Memorial Cemetery was created in 1990. In 1999 an entrance archway made of Texas Red Granite and bronze statues of an African man and woman were added in memory of the graves of over 5,000 freed slaves who were once buried on the original land. Today 800 marked graves and approximately 1,200 unmarked graves remain.

“We are committed to making sure that those stories aren’t lost, that the opportunities to record a history that may not have been well reported to a larger community [isn’t lost],” Victoria Clow, a historic preservationist and fine arts specialist, said. “That those stories are given the prominence that they should.”

Katherine Singleton, chief preservation planner for the office of historic preservation of the city of Dallas, said community members will come forward wanting to preserve a site, place or building because of its cultural and historical significance to Dallas. A passerby might see a quaint home and not realize that it is the home and a civil rights icon, similarly to overlooked history of The Freedmen’s Cemetery.

“The cultural significance of those places are so important and we don’t want to lose them,” Singleton said.

Onyedi Ololo, a biomedical engineering senior and president of UTD’s African Student Union, said he does not think UTD has made much of an effort to bring the Black community on campus together, especially after the overturning of ODEI.

“The most important thing to highlight for this month is absolutely community; bridging the small gaps and cracks in our community,” Ololo said. “Making sure that all Black people on campus know that they have a home here and that they have people here who look like them and share their culture, and who always have their back.”

In the same way the Freedmen Cemetery strives to protect a community’s history, UTD invites students to events like the Community Cookout on, Feb. 29 in the Visitor’s Center Atrium, hosted by Black Students for Public Health. The Bass School invites students to watch the film “Origin,” directed by Ava Duvernay, on Feb. 29 at 5:30 p.m. at Cinemark West Plano.

“Black history is not just contained into one month, it’s our day to day lives or every year,” Ololo said.



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