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Release date: Sept. 28, 2001
Contact: Paula Haggard, Media Relations Coordinator, 404-727-0642, or

Emory University’s Great Teachers Lecture Series On Oct. 18 Addresses Role of African Americans In Newton County's Early History

For years, it was thought the tombstone only held one word: Louisa. She was a domestic slave owned by a white family in the city of Oxford, Georgia. When she died, the family erected a tombstone to honor her. As Mark Auslander and his students cleaned the grave, however, they discovered some long-hidden carvings on the back of the tombstone, including her full name. "Her own family had gone back at a later date and honored her with her entire name," Auslander said. The discovery illustrated the sense of intimacy between white and African-American families of that era, as well as the struggle between the two and whose version of history would prevail.

This story is just one of many unearthed during the restoration of the historically African-American section of the Oxford city cemetery in Newton County. Auslander will discuss "Uncovering the Past at Oxford’s Segregated Cemetery" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18 in Emory’s Miller-Ward Alumni House, 815 Houston Mill Rd. Free parking is available.

Auslander says his talk will include thoughts about landscape and how physical space can become gateways for thinking about history, memory, the past and the present, just as it was for his students.

"Before we can understand the present-day, dual income working family, we have to go back and look at this history," Auslander said of the project’s relevance and usefulness, "and these landscapes can become key sites of teaching where students can do original research and come up with original insight."

Auslander is a core faculty member of the Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life, and a co-coordinator of the Southern Studies Program. Auslander received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Chicago and has been on the Oxford faculty since 1999. Auslander has served as anthropological consultant with the Smithsonian Institution's African Voices Project, a permanent exhibition on African cultural history; he has also consulted with the Biodiversity Support Program, on community conservation projects in Eastern and Southern Africa. He currently is working on a new book, Fertilizer Has Brought Poison: Political Cosmology and Agrarian Change in Eastern Zambia.


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