Civil War  |  Historic Site

Oak Grove Freeman’s Cemetery Memorial

North Carolina

SW corner of W Liberty and North Church Streets
Opposite 212 W Liberty Street
Salisbury, NC 28144
United States

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This heritage site is a part of the American Battlefield Trust's Road to Freedom: North Tour Guide app, which showcases sites integral to the Black experience during the Civil War era. Download the FREE app now.

Oak Grove Freedman’s Cemetery, Salisbury, N.C.
Oak Grove Freedman’s Cemetery, Salisbury, N.C. Rusty Long

Sometimes called Oak Grove Cemetery, this site reflects on the winding road of freedom African Americans experienced both before and after the Civil War.

Colonists set aside this burial ground in the 1770s. Patriots, loyalists and unknown British soldiers came to rest here, along with both enslaved and free African Americans. A wooden fence enclosed what is now known as the Old English Cemetery in 1842, excluding the northern quarter of the grounds then reserved for Black burials in line with the deepening segregation of community life. In 1855, citizens replaced the fence with a granite wall. Through the mid-1900s, at least 144 people came to rest in the Black portion of the graveyard, now known as the Oak Grove Freedman’s Cemetery, but no markers remain to identify their graves. Meanwhile, Salisbury buried Confederate soldiers and North Carolina’s first Confederate Governor on the other side of the wall. Since 1903, the city took portions of the Freedman’s Cemetery to widen roads, prompting the removal of some remains and markers. Other markers decayed as the grounds were closed to burials and neglected.

Dedicated on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in 2006, the Oak Grove Freeman’s Cemetery Memorial surrounds the barren grass with a stone wall inscribed with the names of 20 people buried here between 1843 and 1886 — as well as words of remembrance from Black writers. Its focal point is a jagged opening in the wall separating the proud monuments of Salisbury’s white ancestors from the unmarked graves of its Black ancestors with the displaced granite blocks left on the grass. The Memorial’s designer, Maggie Smith, said “the restoration and memorialization of the Oak Grove Freedman’s Cemetery has one primary goal: to symbolically and literally bring the desecrated part of the cemetery back into the community’s embrace.”


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