October 18, 2021

Historically Black cemetery vandalized in Austin, Texas

Some of the graves were sprayed with the word “AIDS”, a sideways number eight and other graffiti that was illegible.

The damage was discovered on Monday morning and reported to Austin police, said John Nixon, a spokesman for the parks and recreation department.

“My mother is here, I have uncles here,” Roy Jones told KEYE. “You wouldn’t want nobody to do that to your family.”

Evergreen Cemetery was established in 1926 in East Austin for the city’s Black community.

In 1928, Austin adopted a city plan that officially segregated Black residents into the east side of the city, according to the city’s Cemetery Master Plan. The plan called for city services, like schools, to only be offered to Black residents in the east side.

“It is possible that the establishment of Evergreen Cemetery on the east side was an early part of that effort,” according to the cemetery’s master plan.

Dozens of Black business leaders, educators, civil rights activists and other prominent members of the community are buried in the cemetery — including Oscar L. Thompson, the first Black graduate of the University of Texas, NFL Hall of Famer Dick “Night Train” Lane and Dr. L. June H. Brewer, who was one of the first Black students admitted to the University of Texas as a graduate student.

Natalie Marshall, who has a number of relatives buried in the cemetery, was horrified to see the damage to one of her family members’ graves.

“This is not just a random act of vandalism, there is a purpose, there is a purpose behind this,” she told KEYE.

Nixon told CNN that his staff saw no indication that the vandalism was racially motivated, but said the Austin Police Department is investigating the incident. He said there were no surveillance cameras in the cemetery.

CNN reached out to the Austin Police Department for comment but has not heard back.

The Parks and Recreation Department is working with the families to clean up the graffiti, Nixon said.

KEYE reported that the community is planning a vigil at the cemetery.

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