Red Hill Cemetery Project
In cooperation with the Okefenokee Heritage Center and the African American History Committee, the Red Hill Cemetery Project seeks to document the oldest African American Cemetery in Waycross, Georgia. The cemetery is the site of several thousand burials dating from the nineteenth century. Early plat maps and oral traditions suggest that the cemetery predates the abolition of slavery. In the early twentieth century, pastors from the five major African American churches in Waycross signed a deed agreeing to share in the ownership and maintenance of the property. The last burial in Red Hill Cemetery occurred in the early 1960s. Over the last half century, the site has suffered from neglect, intentional vandalism, and aborted efforts at redevelopment, leaving the nearly six-acre parcel overgrown with brush and pines and marked by open graves and toppled monuments.
Funding of a recent grant from the University of North Florida Foundation Board will help to develop a virtual cemetery to document and preserve a vital historical asset. Student interns and researchers will assist in the creation of a database of names, dates, and other biographical information to help preserve the memory of the community. We have developed this site using Omeka S — a powerful database for managing digital cultural heritage collections. In addition, the cemetery, graves and headstones will be photographed and mapped using geospatial technologies. We also plan to conduct oral histories to preserve the living memory of Red Hill Cemetery. The resulting project will combine these elements into a user-friendly interface that allows researchers, visitors, and stakeholders to click on specific burial sites and access the location, photos, death certificates, obituaries, and short biographies.
Most of the identifiable burials date from the late 19th century through the 1950s, spanning the end of Reconstruction to the early Civil Rights Movement, providing a remarkable opportunity to examine the history of an African American community between two momentous historical eras. It also opens avenues of inquiry related to race, gender, health, medicine, and the environment.
Visit our website to learn more about the Red Hill Cemetery Project.