Group fighting to preserve cemetery started as burial ground for slaves

An old African-American cemetery on the east side of town is rich in history but has been poorly kept. Now, some fear it’s in jeopardy of being destroyed. 

The Pleasant Green/Culbertson Cemetery is in east Harris County in the area of Oates Road and Wallisville Road and one group is fighting for the cemetery to be preserved.

FOX 26's Damali Keith was told the cemetery started as a burial ground for slaves. A Houston family says they own the land where a number of their relatives are buried, but if that’s the case, why has a company come in, and put up a gate (which is often locked)? Now, now the family says they’ve seen work crews pouring concrete near the graves.

The graves are just past a construction site and about 25 yards into the woods. 

”My great-great grandfather, my great-great grandmother (relatives) on back are buried out there,” explains Patricia Angel, who says at least one headstone dates back to the 1700’s. 

We spotted a grave marker for a man born in 1888 and his headstone is handwritten.

Angel says her family owns 12 acres of land, including the cemetery where she says about 50 people are buried, but she says she’s not sure what company is working on her property. 

One volunteer group that periodically cleans the cemetery says several of their members saw concrete being poured near the graves and they’re concerned the graves will be covered. 

“Right, because we don’t know how far the graveyard extends,” says Tanya Debose. 

The group is seeking help from Harris County Commissioners. 

"If something is happening out there, we’re going to find out what it is and we’re going to hold anybody accountable for doing something that they shouldn’t out there,” says Commissioner Adrian Garcia.

"It’s unfortunate. There was a time in our history when some people were buried and arrangements were not made so those cemeteries would be maintained,” adds Commissioner Rodney Ellis. 

The volunteers say perhaps the answer is appointing a board to oversee historical sites such as this. 

"We’re trying to create the Harris County African American Culture and Heritage Commission so that we’ll have the opportunity to preserve, protect the resources of our historical communities,” says Carl Davis.  

”Without protections for places like this, our history gets lost,” adds Debose. 

"I always challenge community people to work with us, try and get a church or some volunteers to go out because those (the deceased) are people who obviously paid a heavy price for freedoms that we enjoy today,” says Commissioner Ellis. 

The group was told by the company that an access road to the cemetery is being built. As of now, no one from the company has called Damali Keith back. County commissioners have vowed to help get to the bottom of this.