Marker Monday: Oakland Cemetery

In honor of the 2016-2017 Georgia History Festival, “A State of Innovation,” the October #MarkerMonday posts will focus on the research used to make markers possible as part of Archives Month. Over the course of the month, these posts will talk about examples of how newer research informs and even changes our understanding of places, events, and people.


Image Courtesy of David Siebert

This week’s #MarkerMonday features Oakland Cemetery and explores how historical places evolve over time.

Since its inception in 1850, Oakland Cemetery has experienced many changes. It quickly grew from a six acre lot to a 48 acre green space, containing burial sites of Atlanta mayors, Georgia governors, Confederate and United States soldiers, as well as famous and infamous Atlanta residents. It even contains distinct sections for Jewish and African Americans graves. The last plots were sold in 1884 and, due to years of neglect and vandalism, Oakland Cemetery became overgrown and was in a general state of disrepair. In 1976, the cemetery was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places and the Historic Oakland Foundation (HOF) was created. Since then, the city and the HOF worked together to stabilize Oakland and make it an inviting place for visitors.


Flags marking possible grave sites. Image Courtesy of Historic Oakland Foundation

This year, HOF partnered with Bigman Geophysical, an Atlanta-based remote sensing firm, to conduct a technologically advanced survey of the three acres comprising Oakland’s African American burial section. Traditionally, natural markers, such as flowers, shrubs, and wood, served as headstones for African American graves. Over time, these have unfortunately been lost, and many African American graves are unmarked in Oakland Cemetery. When Bigman Geophysical surveyed the African American section using ground penetrating radar (GPR) and highly precise GPS devices, they found over 800 possible unmarked African American graves in Oakland. To verify the data, HOF will cross reference Bigman Geophysical’s results with the cemetery’s burial records.

Oakland Cemetery provides an excellent example of how the landscape of historic places changes over time.

Explore the links below to learn more Oakland Cemetery and researching historical markers.

Full Marker Text

New Georgia Encyclopedia:

Oakland Cemetery website:

Georgia History Festival

Top Image Detail From Image Courtesy of David Seibert

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