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Noted North Dallas cemetery gets historical landmark designation

Noted North Dallas cemetery gets historical landmark designation
Noted North Dallas cemetery gets historical landmark designation 03:15

DALLAS - A 50-year battle to save a historic Black cemetery in North Dallas has come to an end with descendants of former slaves claiming victory. 

The 173-year-old cemetery sits on three acres developers have coveted for over a half-century. 

"It's not easy getting back here to the cemetery itself, but it's a diamond in the rough," said Tony Suber, whose family is buried in the cemetery, including his great-great-grandfather Anderson Bonner. 

It takes opening several gates and more than a few twists and turns to get to the White Rock Garden of Memories cemetery. 

Much like the twists and turns in this graveyard's storied history.

"They tried to take it from us," Suber said. "Anderson Bonner is an ex-slave; Henry Keller former slave. I would say George Coit was a former slave ... I'm very, very much appreciative of his accomplishments."

Bonner owned several thousand acres and a school for Black children after freedom from slavery and settling in what would eventually become far North Dallas. 

"This whole area was Black-owned," Suber said. "This whole area was farmland cotton fields."

Now it's one of the most densely populated areas in all of North Texas. 

The three-acre cemetery where Bonner and other Black pioneers are buried is completely encircled by dozens of apartment complexes. 

"We also have intruders, unfortunately," said Suber.

It's been vandalized over the years and even made inaccessible by developers who wanted the land without protected status for 173 years. 

Suber and others have worked for decades to give the final resting place of their ancestor's dignity in death that they were denied during their lifetimes. 

"What they could not do at that time, I'm working on it now," said Suber.

This week, the city finally designated the cemetery a historical landmark. 

"Very excited, it was great news," Suber said. "I mean it just gave me a chill over my body to know that now going forward in the future, at this place, will forever be here."

Believe it or not, there was an effort about 50 years ago to bulldoze this cemetery and build apartments.

Fortunately, the descendants of those buried here could stop it in court. They hope this week's decision will ensure this sacred place is protected forever.

"To see that the cemetery remains here, it stays here and that it will forever be here," said Suber. "There is a lot of history that is buried in this cemetery."

Suber says a celebration will be held soon in the Garden of Memories where an important part of the city's history will be preserved. 

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