Old School Cemetery is a historic African-American burial ground in Washington, Georgia. Old School Cemetery served as one of the primary resting places for Washington and Wilkes counties’ African-American population from at least the late nineteenth century through recent years. Informally organized and administered, previous historical research has not identified a church associated with the cemetery nor has it determined the property’s ownership history. The presence of the African-American school on the site suggests that perhaps this school developed out of an earlier church as schools did elsewhere in Georgia (for example, what has evolved into today’s Morehouse College was formed as an African-American school operating out of Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta in the time immediately following the Civil War). The former presence of the school, as well as the size of the cemetery itself, marks this location as one with a long and deep history of association with Washington’s African-American populace, which, along with the African-American section in nearby Rest Haven Cemetery, served as the final resting place of most of Washington and many of Wilkes County’s African-American citizens.
The Old School Cemetery was abandoned and neglected until recent years. Washington’s African-American civic leaders, notably Ms. Earlene King and Mayor Willie Burns, have led recent efforts to revitalize, recognize, and interpret the Old School Cemetery, as well as other places from Washington’s African-American past. These efforts have led to the clearing of vegetation from the cemetery and the marking of visible depressions with concrete head and footstones. The marking of unmarked depressions highlights what is, in our opinion, the most notable aspect of the Old School Cemetery – the large number of unmarked graves it contains. In New South Associates’ experience with African-American cemeteries, by the 1870s, most African-American graves were marked, even if with homemade concrete or stone markers. The high percentage of unmarked graves at the Old School Cemetery suggests that this cemetery may date back to the plantation era, when graves would have been identified with simple wooden markers that would not have survived into the present. The number of unmarked graves also reflects African-American burial customs at the site, which emphasized the connection of family members in burial plots and which stressed family identity over individuals.
Old School Cemetery is also significant because of its landscape. Although informally organized, family plots characterize the cemetery. While some are lined, many were carved from the earth and can be recognized by slightly mounded edges. An existing plot, the Kendrick family’s, features a swept surface with plantings, grave offerings, and mounded edges. This suggests that historically plots may have been swept clean of leaves and debris, a southern folk technique that is known for African-American house yards in Georgia and can be traced to Africa. Old School Cemetery, Mapping, Documentation, Preservation, and Interpretation of a Significant Historic African-American Site, Washington, Georgia. The City of Washington, with a Preserve America … Continue reading
|Surname||Given||Middle / Maiden||Notes|
|Barner||Likely another Barnes grave|
|Newsome||William||S.||(On footstone) W. S. N.|
|↑1||Old School Cemetery, Mapping, Documentation, Preservation, and Interpretation of a Significant Historic African-American Site, Washington, Georgia. The City of Washington, with a Preserve America grant and support from the Georgia Department of Historic Preservation, has funded this project to map and prepare a database of the burials and cemetery features within Old School Cemetery and provide recommendations for the cemetery’s preservation, restoration, and interpretation. This report provides the results of this mapping and database project as well as recommendations for future management and restoration of Old School Cemetery.|