Facing the Rising Sun: Freedman's Cemetery

created by Documentary Arts, Inc. with support from GeoMarine


Details: Produced by Documentary Arts, Inc. with Funding from GeoMarine, Project Director Alan Govenar, Museum coordinator Phillip Collins, kiosks designed by Andrew Dean

Freedman’s Cemetery (circa 1869-1925) represents the remnants of a once thriving North Dallas community, which from the end of the Civil War to 1970s was the largest African American enclave in Dallas. Freedman's Cemetery: Facing the Rising Sun, is inspired by found objects, worn photographs, archival documents, broken headstones, shells, shards of earthenware, decorative pottery, china plates and glass. It is a body of work that defines the fragmentary history of a once prominent African American community, known first as Freedmantown and later as North Dallas. The exhibit brings together public and private collections and is presented in different thematic areas: Slavery, Emancipation, Reconstruction, Early Families, Education, Medicine, Religion, Business, and Community Pride. Interactive video kiosks present a menu of options and enable the viewer to gain an understanding of the life experiences of different individuals, who grew up in Freedmantown and old North Dallas. These are supplemented by vintage photography, newspapers, snap shots, 8mm-film footage, archival documents, business directories, maps, and other ephemera that help to elucidate the broader context of community life. Several groups forged together in 1989 to protect Freedman's Cemetery from further damage through the scientific excavation of the graves within the right-of-way of the proposed North Central Expressway improvements and the re-interment of the remains and associated effects in an adjacent plot the of the largest in the country.



During the preparations for construction of a new Central Expressway by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and a Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) subway tunnel in 1986, it became clear that the historic black Freedman's Cemetery would be "impacted". The resolution of TxDOT and the outraged community members was that TxDOT would finance the extensive excavation and the creation of a traveling exhibit which would educate people about the important history of Freedman's Cemetery. GeoMarine was contracted by TxDOT to do the excavation, and they in turn commissioned Documentary Arts, Inc. to design and oversee the creation of the exhibit.

The Show was up at the African American Museum in Dallas, TX between 2001 and 2008.