Six Square is the nexus of thriving Black arts and culture in Central East Austin. We re-animate cultural spaces, connect community, and honor the past, present, and future of Austin’s Black Cultural District.
The Texas State Cemetery is the final resting place of Stephen F. Austin (the hero of Texan independence for whom the city is named) as well as 11 governors, countless state officials, veterans of wars going back to the American Revolution and including thousands of Confederate soldiers, and select Texans the state has chosen to honor. Established in the 1850s and restored in the 1990s, it is a fascinating place to explore for its green space and monuments to Texas heroes. The land was originally donated by Texas Revolutionary General Edward Burleson who became one of the first people buried here along with Austin.
One group of influential Texas officials you won’t find buried here are the African American men who served as part of the Texas constitutional convention or in the Texas legislature during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. After Reconstruction ended in 1877, new laws such as the Texas Poll Tax of 1902 prevented African Americans from voting or holding elected positions. In 2010, the cemetery unveiled a memorial to 52 of these officials who worked for education, voting rights, labor rights, and frontier defense.
It wasn’t until 1966 that another African American was elected to the Texas legislature: Barbara Jordan, who would go on to serve in the U.S. Congress and receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom among many other honors. A civil rights activist and inspiring speaker, Jordan became well-known on the national stage for her speeches supporting the impeachment of President Nixon in 1974 and the election of President Carter in 1976. Originally from Houston, Jordan spent the final decades of her life in Austin as an ethics professor at the University of Texas, living with her companion Nancy Earl, an educational psychologist. She passed away in 1996 and was the first African American woman buried here.
Johnson was joined here in 2006 by Ann Richards, who served as governor of Texas from 1991-1995. Originally from the Waco area, Richards was a social studies and history teacher at a junior high in Austin before beginning her decades-long political career. As governor she gained national admiration and was honored by the NAACP for her commitment to civil rights, but was unseated by George W. Bush in the 1994 election. Austin's landmark bridge on Congress St. is named for her.
An even more recent addition, Texas native Chris Kyle, Navy SEAL and subject of the book and movie “American Sniper,” was murdered in 2013. Since then his grave has attracted many visitors, including Austin native Richard Overton, the oldest living US war veteran. Other notable modern graves include those of influential comedian Richard Pryor, Roe v. Wade lawyer Sarah Weddington, and football coach Tom Landry.
Cover image: s2photographic via Instagram.