172-Year-Old Cemetery Could Get Protections

White Rock Cemetery Garden of Memories
White Rock Cemetery Garden of Memories | Image by White Rock Cemetery Garden of Memories/Facebook

The Dallas Landmark Commission will move forward with a plan to designate a 172-year-old cemetery north of the City as a historical site.

The move to designate the site as historically significant will prevent further development and ensure that generations of Dallas residents will have an opportunity to learn about the history of Black residents who came to Dallas in the wake of the Civil War.

The White Rock Cemetery Garden of Memories is the final resting place of many formerly enslaved people and Black pioneers in Dallas. Advocates for Black history have worked for decades to designate the property as a historical site to prevent encroaching development. In recent years, apartment buildings and condominiums have been built around the location, now sitting in a complex’s courtyard.

The fight to preserve the cemetery has continued since at least the 1960s when a corporate entity tried to acquire the land for development. The latest move by the Landmark Commission offers the best chance yet of ensuring the site’s history is retained.

The effort to preserve the site is spearheaded by Remembering Black Dallas Inc. and has support from City Council member Jaynie Schultz in District 11, where the cemetery is located. Schultz grew up in the neighborhood and said she learned of the cemetery’s history after attending a Remembering Black Dallas tour.

“The fact that it’s in my district is a gift,” Schultz said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News in 2022. “I need to represent the area’s history as much as its present and its future.”

The area was once the site of a freedman’s town, and many of the remains buried in the cemetery belong to formerly enslaved people. Many burials, including those of John Henry Peace, do not have markers. His descendant, Sheniqua Cummings, is a board member and founding member of Preservation Dallas. Cummings is the lead researcher who has preserved many stories about the families buried at White Rock Cemetery.

“Who’s to say that at some point someone won’t come in here and think, ‘Hey, nobody cares about this. Let’s just build on it,’” Cummings said to the DMN. “I’m always afraid of that.”

The approval by the Landmark Commission requires approval by the City Planning Commission and will require a vote by the City Council. No date has been set for the Commission to review the designation.

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