Behind One Man’s Push to Restore a North Texas Freedman’s Cemetery
Willie Hudspeth drove past the burial site the first time he went looking for the bodies.
The longtime activist was trekking down a country road in search of a freedman’s cemetery in Pilot Point, a small town north of Denton. But over time, nature had run its course. Grass and weeds blanketed some 400 graves of St. John’s Cemetery, the final resting place for a community composed of freed slaves. Before a fence was installed, cattle would occasionally roam through the wooded grounds.
But on that day several years back, Hudspeth encountered a caretaker on the gravel road. Upon spotting his vehicle, she assumed he may be yet another high-school kid out to steal headstones. She held a .45 pistol behind the door of her truck.
Hudspeth laughs when he tells the story, explaining how the caretaker soon relaxed and showed him the way to St. John’s. Looking back on it now, the 75-year-old civil rights activist and local NAACP president is amazed he was able to find the overgrown site, largely forgotten. Ask him, and he’ll say it’s divine providence.
“I don’t know how in the world we found this. I don’t know how we found her, I don’t know how we found the road to turn on. Nothing,” he said. “But that’s how we actually found it, and then I got her permission to come out and do some work out here whenever I could.”
You can read the rest of the story in an article by Simone Carter published in the Dallas (Texas) Observer at https://bit.ly/3wHmLMs.