Incorporated in 1875, Olivewood is an historic African-American cemetery in Houston, Texas. With more than 4,000 burials on its 7.5-acre site, Olivewood is the final resting place of many notable figures in Houston’s early African-American community.
Designated as a Texas Historical Cemetery in 2006, Olivewood Cemetery was described as “a key historical site in Houston, serving as a testament to the foresight and perseverance of the cemetery founders.” Olivewood Cemetery, along with six other sites in Houston, has been recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a “Site of Memory” in the Slave Route Project, an international registry of locations involved in the transatlantic slave trade.
Abandoned in the 1960s, Olivewood has suffered significant deterioration due to neglect, flooding, and vandalism over the years. In 2011 Olivewood was listed by Preservation Texas as one of Texas’ most endangered historical sites, noting “Olivewood Cemetery is threatened by erosion, vandalism, and rapid plant growth. Water runoff from neighboring commercial establishments has resulted in flooding and the loss of grave sites.”
Olivewood has also been subject to a number of devastating floods in recent years.
In 2017, flooding from Hurricane Harvey inundated some portions of the cemetery with more than ten feet of water.
With the support of an African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund grant in 2021, the organization has undertaken a comprehensive study to clarify the extent of the threat from flooding and erosion, and identify specific protection and mitigation measures, but advocates will need partnerships and funding in order to implement these plans.
The cenetery was placed on the 2022 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
The nonprofit Descendants of Olivewood, Inc., the cemetery’s legal guardian, has undertaken a comprehensive study to clarify the extent of the threat and identify specific protection and mitigation measures, but advocates need partnerships and funding in order to implement these plans.
For information contact:
347 West 23rd St.
Houston, TX 77008