Many of the burials in Historic Oakland Cemetery’s African-American section never had traditional markers. The three-acre section resembles an open field, peppered with trees, shrubs and gravestones here and there.
Families without means placed wooden markers or objects that belonged to the deceased, like toys or other objects. Sometimes they planted rose bushes or other plants.
And this is why Neale Nickels, Oakland’s director of preservation, is crouched over an azalea bush with a thick stem.