Oak Woods Cemetery

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Oak Woods Cemetery
Cemetery monuments and chapel
Chapel and grounds at Oak Woods Cemetery
Oak Woods Cemetery is located in the US
Oak Woods Cemetery
Oak Woods Cemetery is located in Illinois
Oak Woods Cemetery
Oak Woods Cemetery is located in Chicago
Oak Woods Cemetery
Established February 12, 1853 (1853-02-12)
Location Chicago, Illinois
Country United States
Coordinates 41°46′N 87°36′W / 41.77°N 87.6°W / 41.77; -87.6[1]Coordinates: 41°46′N 87°36′W / 41.77°N 87.6°W / 41.77; -87.6[1]
Website Oak Woods Cemetery

Oak Woods Cemetery is a cemetery in Chicago, Illinois. Located at 1035 E. 67th Street, in the Greater Grand Crossing area of Chicago's South Side, it was established 164 years ago on February 12, 1853, and covers 183 acres (74 ha).[2]

It is the setting for a mass grave and memorial for Confederate prisoners of war. Oak Woods is also the final resting place of several famous Americans including Harold Washington, Ida B Wells and Enrico Fermi.


The first burials took place in 1860. After the Civil War (1861–1865), several thousand Confederate soldiers, prisoners who died at Camp Douglas, were reburied here. A monument and marker, which former Kentucky Lieutenant Governor John C. Underwood helped construct, probably inflates the number of soldiers buried as 6,000, but lists the names of more than 4,000.[3][4] Another, smaller memorial commemorates the Union soldiers who died at the Camp Douglas, often from contagious diseases. These bodies had originally been buried at City Cemetery, which was closed and removed during expansion of Lincoln Park during the urban renewal following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. They were exhumed and reinterred together in a mass grave, which came to be known as Confederate Mound, reputedly the largest mass grave in the Western Hemisphere.[5]

The cemetery now contains the graves of many prominent African Americans, including Chicago's first African American mayor Harold Washington. Journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells, Olympic sports hero Jesse Owens, and gospel music pioneer Thomas A. Dorsey are buried in the cemetery.[6]

Famous nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi has his final resting place here. The cemetery also has a section for U.S. veterans of several wars, and a separately-maintained Jewish section.

Confederate Mound

Notable burials[edit]

Roland Burris tomb[edit]

Roland Burris tomb in 2008

Roland Burris, the U.S. Senator appointed by Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, constructed a family tomb at 41°46′16″N 87°36′08″W / 41.77122°N 87.60215°W / 41.77122; -87.60215 in the Oak Woods Cemetery, in preparation for his and his wife's eventual interment. The tomb received considerable publicity (generally negative) after Burris' appointment by the since-convicted governor.[7][8][9] The rear portion of the large stone structure resembles a triptych, forward of which are two burial vaults; the left one is engraved with Burris' name and birth date and the right vault with the name of Burris' wife. The central segment of the triptych includes a large inscription of the words "TRAIL BLAZER" along the top. The segments of the triptych also include accomplishments of Burris and his wife, both of whom are still living. These note that Burris was the first African American to be Attorney General of Illinois, the first African-American exchange student from Southern Illinois University to the University of Hamburg, Germany, and the first non-CPA to be on the board of the Illinois CPA Society.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Oak Woods Cemetery". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 
  2. ^ "History". Oak Woods Cemetery. Retrieved 28 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Minutes of the 9th Annual Meeting of the Confederate Veterans. New Orleans: Hopkins Printing Office. 1900. pp. 109, 172–175. 
  4. ^ Wagner, Margaret E.; Gallagher, Gary W & Finkelman Paul, eds. (2009). The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference. New York: Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, Inc. pp. 605–06, 609. ISBN 978-1-4391-4884-6. Retrieved 2017-08-17. Although the memorial, erected in the late 1880s, claims 6,000 dead, this is unlikely to be true as significantly fewer (4,454) Confederate prisoners were known to have died at Camp Douglas. 
  5. ^ Kogan, Rick. "Camp Douglas effort stirs ghosts of the Civil War". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  6. ^ http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-confederate-statue-chicago-met-0817-20170816-story.html
  7. ^ O'Connor, Patrick (2008-12-30). "Roland Burris's Monument to Me". Politico. Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  8. ^ [1] Archived April 1, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ "Roland Burris' Monument to Himself". The Weekly Standard. December 31, 2008. Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  10. ^ Reynolds, Dean (November 5, 2010). "Bill Brady Concedes to Pat Quinn Illinois Governor's Race". CBS News. Retrieved 2017-08-17. 

External links[edit]