Arts & Culture News

New Photography Exhibit Honors Forgotten African-American Cemetery

People drive past the historic piece of land every day without realizing what’s there.

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Walking through Olivewood Cemetery, the vegetation is so thick in some parts that it's easy to miss toppled headstones and unmarked graves. In the lot adjacent to the 8-acre piece of land, bulldozers tear through an old grocery warehouse.

Olivewood became Houston's first incorporated African American Cemetery in 1875. But over the years, the place has become sorely neglected. The sight — and story — of the cemetery is the inspiration behind a new exhibit at the National Museum of Funeral History.

"I went out one morning and I took a bunch of pictures and said, ‘This is it. This is my project,'" says 20-year-old Kasey French, who learned about Olivewood four years ago while helping to clean the place up with her church. Later, she published a book of artistic photos as part of earning her Girl Scout Gold Award.

When the museum's Genevieve Keeney was approached about curating the exhibit, she knew it was a unique story. That was reinforced when she visited the cemetery for the first time a couple weeks ago.

"I came across headstones that are just so overgrown and I was like, ‘Something has to be done. Something has to be done,'" Keeney says. "And at that moment, I realized that this exhibit was much more than just photography."

Honoring Olivewood is on display through May 29th.

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