News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Historians Deploy Science To Explore African American History In San Antonio

Ryan Poppe | Texas Public Radio

Researchers and students from Texas A&M University at San Antonio used ground-penetrating radar to examine a rediscovered African American cemetery. The site was linked to historic black settlements on the north side of the city.



Neighbors living in area contacted Everett Fly with the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum in 2017 when they discovered the abandoned Hockley Cemetery between an alley behind Northern Hills Elementary School.


 “You would know in San Antonio we have the Alamo. We have the Riverwalk. We have the Missions. We saved everything except historic African American properties. We erased a lot of it. We’ve let a lot of it go,” Fly said.


Fly said the cemetery was central to black settlements that date back over 100 years.


“There’s been a myth in San Antonio that all the black history was in one part of the city, on the East Side.  We’re in far north San Antonio, so this proves that is a myth,” Fly said.


Mark Everett is a geophysics professor at Texas A&M University at San Antonio. His students began their work by first stretching two tape measures hundreds of yards to establish a grid of the property.


The team dragged a ground-penetrating radar sled across the site.
Credit Ryan Poppe | Texas Public Radio
The team dragged a ground-penetrating radar sled across the site.

 Then, they dragged a 3-foot sled holding two radar devices across the ground. They then recorded  their findings.


“We’ve got 80 meters this way and 40 meters along that, so every half meter we will do a reading this way, and we will do a half meter line spacing so we’ll get a grid of points that we turn into a sort of map of the subsurface,” Everett said.


Fly said any remains the researchers locate not only add to the historical significance of this land but to the overall role African Americans played in Bexar County.


“As we’ve done the research we’ve found out there was a circle, a ring of black settlements around San Antonio, so there’s black settlements in every quadrant of Bexar County, and they’re all more than a hundred years old,” Fly said.


Fly hopes that information will help complete the full story of African American history in San Antonio.

Ryan Poppe can be reached at and on Twitter at @RyanPoppe1.

Copyright 2020 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.