Freedman’s Cemetery Memorial (Dallas, TX)

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Dublin Core

Title

Freedman’s Cemetery Memorial (Dallas, TX)

Subject

Subject (Topic)
African Americans--Texas--Dallas--History
American South
Cemeteries--Texas
Freedmen--Texas
Public art
Public sculpture
Slavery--United States
Texas--History

Subject (Object Type)
Commemorative sculpture

Description

The memorial is located in the Freedman Cemetery in Dallas, Texas. Established in 1861, it is one of the largest Freedman's cemeteries in the country. A Texas Red granite archway marks the entrance to the 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. He holds a large ceremonial machete with its blade pointed to the ground. His female counterpart, the “Prophetess,” holds a small harp to her chest with her left hand. On the other side of the arch within the memorial garden, two bronze figures occupy the niches. Unlike the free-standing works at the front of the archway, these works are bronze bas-reliefs. The figures emerge emerge from a background that suggests the waves of an ocean. The female figure, the “Violated Soul,” whose wrists and feet are bound by iron mancles, covers her face with her hands. Her male counterpart, the “Struggling Soul,” is similarly shown with his wrists and feet bound by iron manacles; he covers his own scream with his bent left arm. Above each of the life-size bronze figures, in the top register of the arch, are twelve smaller bronze sculptures, suggestive of West African wood sculpture.

Through the archway at the center of the memorial park, “Dream of Freedom,” sits atop a Texas Red granite circular plinth. The sculpture shows a newly emancipated couple. The male figure, whose shirtless torso is scarred by whip marks on his back, wraps his left arm around a kneeling woman. Directly behind “Dream of Freedom,” is a polished granite slab with Nia Akimbo’s poem, “Here.” Two remaining headstones from the original cemetery are embedded in the back of this granite slab.

At the base of each statue, bronze plaques list the artist, title of the sculpture, and description of the work. Embedded in the interior arched wall are bronze plaques with poetry by ten children from local schools, who won a local poetry contest. In the lawn, several Texas Red granite blocks have bronze plaques attached to them, identifying the original river bed and unmarked graves.

Creator

Newton, David S., 1967-

Date

Dedicated: June 19, 1999

Contributor

Black Dallas Remembered, Inc.; City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs; Dallas African American Museum; Dallas County Historical Commission; Freedman’s Foundation; Texas Department of Transportation; Mary Loving Blanchard (poet Nia Akimbo); and private donors.

Rights

City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture, Administrative Office, 1925 Elm Street, Suite 400, Dallas, Texas, 75201, United States

Format

JPEG

Language

English

Type

Visual Arts-Sculpture

Coverage

Freedman’s Memorial Cemetery, 2525 N Central Expressway, Dallas, Texas, 75204, United States

Has Part

Historic marker:
Freedman’s Cemetery
This area of Dallas County was settled by former African American slaves shortly after the conclusion of the American Civil War. Freedman’s Cemetery, a graveyard for African Americans, was established in 1869 on one acre of land purchased by trustee Sam Eakins. Another three acres was acquired for cemetery purposes in 1879 by trustees A. Wilhite, Frank Read, A. Boyd, T. Watson, George English, Silas Pitman, and the Rev. A. R. Griggs, a former slave who later became a prominent local church leader and champion of early public education for the African American community. The community of churches, commercial enterprises, and residences that had developed in this area by the turn of the 20th century was by 1912 a part of the City of Dallas. Construction of the Central Expressway through here in the 1930s virtually eliminated all physical above-ground reminders of the cemetery. Descendants of persons buried here and the City of Dallas agreed in 1965 to establish the Freedman's Memorial Park and Cemetery at this site. Beginning in 1989 representatives of the community worked with the City of Dallas and the Texas Department of Transportation to preserve the historic Freedman’s Cemetery site prior to highway expansion. (1993)

Bronze plaque:
The Sentinel
David Newton 1999
Symbolic guardian protecting site from disrespect or harm. His attire is based on Benin culture of West Africa.

Bronze plaque:
The Prophetess
David Newton 1999
Symbolic of an African oral historian keeping the knowledge and memory of her ancestors alive.

Bronze plaque:
Violated Soul
David Newton 1999
Symbolic of the violation of African women and the degrading nature of slavery, covered faces represents the loss of personal identity experienced by enslaved persons.

Bronze plaque:
The Struggling Soul
David Newton 1999
Symbolic of the enslaved African’s resistance to slavery, and their constant struggle for freedom, the watery background represents the Atlantic Middle Passage unique to the American slave trade.

Bronze plaque:
Dream of Freedom
David Newton 1999
Symbolic of a newly emancipated couple contemplating the death and suffering of their ancestors.

Bronze plaque:
Riverbed
Symbolic of “Crossing Over” from the “Here” Monument to the “Afterlife” Cemetery Area

Bronze plaque:
Unmarked Graves
Approximately 5,000 Unmarked Graves in This Area (Based on Arcaheological Report)

Polished granite slab:
“Here” by Nia Akimbo
https://youtu.be/rua76I5Ptis

Poetry bronze plaque:
“Remembrance”
The moment, once here, as of now bereft
So many lives, all one by one taken, though
Not to a sad place, for thorugh this unfair left
They, in God’s glorious land, will awaken.
Most now are gone, yet hardly forgotten-
These treasured ancestors must live on
In our spirits, we remain ever begotten
And we shall never, from them, find ourselves gone.
So much like a precious family heirloom
Passed down through many generations
Never to be lost or forgotten . . . too soon
Yet to help us achieve our expectations

We implore, please know, this is no morose fact
Their dignity is returned to us at last.

Olivia Linn
1995

Poetry bronze plaque:
“Eulogy to an Unknown Freedman”

We transient men of clay can well attest to
The inherent fraility of the human frame.
And do likewise confess that most of our names
Are inevitably reduced to whispering ashes of fond recollections
Scattering before the breath of the night wind
That blows out the twilight our day;
However, unlike this freedman, we can draw comfort from our nostaligic predilection
To leave our moral names engraved in stone upon the sod,
While he could only cling to the clarity of his perception
That his name had been inscribed in the mind of God.

Though anonymous here, the past deeds of this seemingly lost life of sorrows
Still impacts our today and our tomorrows,
For the complex fabric of our times is thickly interwoven
With the sturdy cotton threads he spun his wheel of life.
Yes, we’ve heard of this freedman-this “motherless” child of Africa
Whose matchless paean(?), still echo here and do persuade us even now
That we are, indeed, standing in an active valley of “them dry bones”
With no need of rows upon rows of labeled stones,
For it is certain that “on that great gettin up Mornin”
This unidentified sleeping soul is going to stand up and us his name!

Ramona Newton
1996

Poetry bronze plaque:
“Undying Love”

Black People, your minds is not fixed on grieving
Yet to feel so much pain for so much time
Many a soul wrecked; soon flees peace of mind-
This hateful world still deceitful
You toiled through sweat, suffering but believing
Sometimes too hot, the sun above did shine
Painful hearts pray for all to be fine
Images of departure, enticing
Spirits wandering though all those sad years
Laid down a path for others, much like me
Free, you strive to cleanse all the salty tears
Working so that we would ever be free

Your dearest love that that comforts all earthly fears
Is reborn in this undying, watchful tree.

Summer Allen
1995

Poetry bronze plaque:
“A Life to Celebrate”

Sweet sounding voices of our ancestors cry
Oh, little black children, our own, please hear
So you may know the weary-filled years
Which set you here: Hope could not pass you by
This life was hard so you, child, would apply
To enjoy life, those things we hold so dear
Not simply to toil, struggle and to fear:
Offspring, learn now the road we had to buy
Our spirits strong, living, rising like air
Proud, Intelligent you are, and you are
Celebrating life to show you care
Never forget your past, those souls martyred

For no one is promised sweet life is fair
But unto all, the duty is to falter never.

Remel Derrick
1995

Poetry bronze plaque:
“Near This Place”

Near here now sleep dead, though are they so cold?
Let it be known, here warm breath resided
In these lungs; under tragic struggle bold
Steps these walked, yet their pain twas abided
These simple lives unknown, until now
Face here new meaning, and are not in vain.
With death near, so much knowledge buried, how
Many secrets are buried in these lives unchained?
Yet lived these; lived boldly so and endured
Yet knew pain, humanity they preseved
As hate trod on, and true knowledge obscured
While here Dignity, is kept, is honored

This, never a cold vault of gloom, but here
Is Peace, and a debt paid, this is now near.

Jedidiah Anderson
1995

Poetry bronze plaque:
“A Thread of Freedom”

Opening the drawer to remove fresh cloth
The stench of neglect infects pure air;
The fabric worn from the work of a moth
The texture haggard, from both time and wear,
The history which lives with each thread, strong
Every stitch brough together by brave souls
Congregated to Fight against life’s Wrongs.
They came from both sexes, the young and the old.
I unfold the quilt to inhale beauty
Different colors are combined with each other
The passed down from those who value hard work and duty
And would not live, property of another.

Our inherited freedom, life’s treasure
Simply belongs to all, without measure.

Lysbet Musselwhite
1995

Poetry bronze plaque on brick wall:
“The Post Oak”

The Post Oak Tree stands
remembering Black people
remembering You!

Jonathan Bailey
1995

Poetry bronze plaque on brick wall:
“A Beginning”

Birth
Adventurous, fulfilling
Beginning, crying, delivering
New Experiences for yourself.
Newness.

Modesta Orono
1995

Poetry bronze plaque on brick wall:
“Because I Was Free”

I leaped in the air
And shouted HALLELUJAH
Because I Was Free.

Tambre Kincade
1995

Poetry bronze plaque on brick wall:
“A Celebration of Life”

Living
Pleasure, hurt now
Ending, Moving, Pleasing
To know my heritage.
Venture.

Alan Coleman
1995

Medium

Texas Red granite; Bronze

Bibliographic Citation

“Freedman’s Cemetery.” Historic Preservation, Sustainable Development and Construction, City of Dallas. Accessed May 11, 2020, https://dallascityhall.com/departments/sustainabledevelopment/historicpreservation/Pages/freedman_s_cemetery.aspx.

Rights Holder

Renée Ater

Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Sculpture

Citation

Newton, David S., 1967-, “Freedman’s Cemetery Memorial (Dallas, TX),” Contemporary Monuments to the Slave Past, accessed September 25, 2020, https://www.slaverymonuments.org/items/show/1130.

Geolocation

Item Relations

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