Event focuses on the history and legacy of East Austin

Importance of African American burial grounds

Celebrating the history of Central East Austin is the focus of a special tour happening this weekend.

In Central East Austin, there's a sacred space for those who have passed on.

"Housewives, husbands, farmers, ex-slaves, laborers, you have soldiers buried out here," said Harrison Eppright, who leads tours around East Austin historical sights. "I'm sure there are teachers buried out here, ministers."

Every headstone at Bethany Cemetery tells a story.

They are tales James Davidson, an anthropology professor at the University of Florida, has heard before while studying other African-American cemeteries across the nation.

"Any black grave marked with a formal commercial stone prior to 1900 is a rare thing, indeed. I've been to many black cemeteries where there's no stones at all," Davidson said. "After having lived anonymous lives, and being disposable people, the idea of having a stone and being remembered in that sense was of enormous importance, it weighed on these people."

Bethany is one stop on this weekend's Homecoming tour. It's sponsored by Six Square, an organization dedicated to the preservation of black culture in East Austin.

The tour is a chance to see the landmarks of Black architecture and design, cemeteries and other distinctive places.

Bethany Cemetery opened in the1800s and isn't affiliated with the city or a church. The group that took care of it died off a while ago.

"So we wanted to take this homecoming and not only acknowledge having people come back into our historic community but come back and take care of our legacy, which is the cemetery," said Six Square Executive Director Lisa Byrd.

The story inside this cemetery is a legacy Harrison Eppright is researching right now. Records show an one of Eppright’s possible ancestors is buried somewhere on those grounds, quite possibly in an unmarked grave.

"That Ben Eppright may very well be my great-grandfather," he said.

And Eppright hopes everyone will take this weekend's tour and appreciate the legacy of East Austin.

"History is not just what happened in the past, but history is an ongoing thing," he said. "We each are a part of history."

For more information about the tour, click here

(© 2016 KVUE)


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