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The Headstone Restoration of Oakland Resident Lizzie Taylor

This year on Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service, Historic Oakland Foundation welcomed hundreds of volunteers to join us in a volunteer day on the grounds. During the course of the day, one of our youngest volunteers stumbled upon a headstone while digging a hole for a new tree. It reads “Lizzie ____ Died July 21 18–. With just a first name and partial date of death, our preservation team was apprehensive about finding more information on the resident. Fortunately, over the years, Oakland’s sextons have kept good records.

The headstone was found on block 55 in the historic African American burial grounds, and as luck would have it, there is a record in our database of a young woman named Lizzie Taylor being buried there. Now that we had a last name, our preservation intern, Lauren, was able to broaden her search and begin to discover who Lizzie was. Through the use of census data, city directories and any other documents that had digitized, Lauren was able to uncover the following:

Lizzie Taylor was a working-class black woman born around 1860. She worked as a laundress and ironer, which helped her support her mother, Harriet, and her younger sister, Eliza. They lived together at 64 Peachtree Street. Lizzie was 23 when she died.

After discovering exactly where the marker belonged, our preservation team began the restoration process. The marble tablet was restored using epoxy and a lime-based repair mortar. After “gluing” the pieces together with the epoxy, a dremel was used to ensure the breaks in the stone were large enough to place the mortar in between. This is standard practice, as it usually makes the mortar fills more successful. Once the mortar dried, the stone was brought to Lizzie’s resting place and put back in the ground where it belongs.

To learn more, check out these videos of the headstone restoration process:

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