Officials in Austin, Texas, have their hands full in trying to figure out how to proceed with an issue that has risen at the Oakwood Cemetery in that city. According to the Austin based American-Statesman a chapel restoration project on the cemetery grounds has been halted because it appears that human burial graves have been located beneath the chapel.
From all practical purposes it appears that the Chapel, which was built in 1914, was built over a section of what was the non-white portion of the segregated cemetery. Archaeologists, who have been working since the construction was stopped in November, are close to four feet into the earth and appear to have uncovered at least 13 grave sites.
Nothing has been decided yet but one option is to exhume the remains, identify them, and then re-bury them somewhere else. The cemetery officials believe however, that identification could prove almost impossible. The cemetery is operated by the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department.
A meeting of concerned people and the city is scheduled for April 7 when they will discuss options. The decision will be watched because many believe that this is not the only city where this type of incident occurred. Many believe that the decision on how to proceed with dignity in Austin will be the framework for remedy if and when this occurs again.
Funeral Director Daily take: This is a sad situation and I believe that discussion on the remedy is needed before moving forward. I’m skeptical that those buried prior to 1914 when the chapel was built can be identified. If they can’t that makes it even more difficult.
Many people believe that the chapel was knowingly built over the black section of the cemetery. If so, it was a tremendous injustice. Funeral professionals, regardless of race or creed, need to stand together on the side of right on these issues.