African American Cemetery, Oxford, Georgia

before the civil war, the small town of oxford, georgia (population 2000) briefly occupied the national stage as the locus of a conflict that split the methodist episcopal church.  southern methodist bishop james osgood andrew in 1834 inherited a twelve year old slave known as "kitty," to whom he offered manumission in 1841, on the condition that she leave the united states permanently for liberia.  kitty chose to remain a slave to bishop andrew, and the bishop offered her what has been described as de-facto freedom, though northern methodists excoriated him for slave ownership, and initiated a schism that lasted a century.  behind his church in oxford, the bishop built a small cabin for kitty, where she bore three children and lived until her death in the mid 1850s.  today her restored cabin stands just behind his historic church, the two buildings forming an important destination for regional history.  not surprisingly, there are competing stories among oxford's residents about kitty and her legacy.  for most of oxford's white population, both the bishop and kitty stand as virtuous figures in a slave-holding society, he the unwilling slave master and she his devoted servant, all but transcending her enslavement.  for many african americans, kitty's options were both bad--slavery or deportation to a foreign country.  according to many accounts, the cost of kitty's decision to remain with the bishop was to become his mistress, and many believe that he was the father of her children, though his paternity has never been proven. 

kitty is buried with the bishop's family in oxford's segregated cemetery, the single (acknowledged) african american grave in the white section.  her grave is--de facto--the only non-white grave tended by the all-white private foundation that the town officially pays to oversee the cemetery, but whose activities are restricted to the white section only.  these pictures show the african american section of oxford's cemetery.  in the last photograph, the white section is visible in the distance.

                                                                                               atlanta, 25 march 2010