African-American Section

Formally Designated African-American Burial Ground Within First Street Cemetery

In 1968 the City of Waco (COW) removed grave markers from the section of First Street Cemetery along the Brazos River to convert that area into a campground.  Archaeological and historical evidence indicates that this section of First Street Cemetery contains a large number of African-American burials.  The section of the cemetery that was left intact by the city contains mostly Anglo-American burials.  COW employees have repeatedly characterized the predominantly African-American section of the cemetery as an "informal burial ground" despite the existence of historic deeds showing that the boundaries of First Street Cemetery extended to the Brazos River.  A recently discovered deed reveals that a large portion of the predominantly African-American section of the cemetery was formally designated as a burial ground for "Colored People."  The deed is dated September 19, 1882, seven months to the day after the city purchased additional property to expand the City Cemetery (the property was purchased from W. R. Simpson but was owned by E. J. Gurley in 1869 when the city map shown here was produced).  The designated burial ground for African-Americans covers 4 6/10 acres, approximately half of the acreage purchased in 1882 (see map below).  A section of Waco's recently constructed riverwalk passes through the formally designated African-American burial ground.

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