Goodnight Raleigh - a look at the art, architecture, history, and people of the city at night

Forgotten Oberlin Village Cemetery

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Tucked away in the woods behind a nondescript building on Raleigh’s busy Oberlin Road is a long-forgotten chunk of inside the beltline real estate. I am speaking of the old Oberlin Village Cemetery.

Few people are aware of its existence now, but this weedy, three-acre graveyard entangled with ivy is the final resting place for many former residents of the once-thriving African-American Community known as Oberlin.


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I first explored Oberlin Cemetery more than 25 years ago when I was researching information for a history project. That was long before development had crept right up to its edge. Oberlin Rd. was still a residential street for the most part back then.

The cemetery had been neglected for years. I found it covered in a dense thicket of brush and debris, which made exploration a challenge. Ornate marble headstones still stood among the many broken and overturned ones. There were disturbed gravesites, scattered fragments of funerary art, illegible wooden markers, sunken graves and lost memories. It seemed a sad and lonely place.

I did not return to the site until last fall when I scouted the area for a cemetery documentation expert who records forgotten cemeteries for CemeteryCensus.com.

Although a few attempts have been made over the years to clean up and preserve Oberlin Cemetery, I found it to be basically the same as it was 25 years ago. At least now the historic graveyard has been documented, and the names of its residents recorded for posterity. Their memories however, are still lost and forgotten.

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