Filed Under Race and Ethnicity

Nancy Williams Gravestone, 1832

Earliest-known grave marker for an African American in Cincinnati

Nothing is known of the woman who this stone commemorates, except what is carved on the stone itself.

“Sacred to the Memory of Nancy Williams, wife of Henry Williams, who departed this life, October 21st, 1832, aged 27 years and 1 month. She believed and said take away all and give me Jesus.”

The gravestone, located in the United American Cemetery in Madisonville, itself is a masterpiece of carving, showing a weeping willow tree (the symbol of mourning), a funerary urn, and a lamb (innocence), all within an arch whose keystone is decorated with acanthus leaves, a traditional symbol of “enduring life.” Above the arch are two angels, and on the arch itself is the superscript, “We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ.”

This is the earliest known grave marker for an African American in the Cincinnati region. For comparison, the second oldest is the 1838 David Nickens monument, now located in Union Baptist Cemetery.

The original location of the Nancy Williams gravestone is unknown. This stone predates not only this cemetery – the United American Cemetery – but also the original “United Colored American” cemetery at Avondale. It is likely that this stone has been moved at least twice to get here. The stone is now at the crest of the hill, at the foot of a magnificent Norway Spruce tree.

Images

Nancy Williams Gravestone, 1832 Creator: Albert Cesare

Location

4732 Duck Creek Road, Cincinnati, Ohio | United American Cemetery is currently closed to the public

Metadata

https://union-baptist.net/about-us/our-history/united-american-cemetery/
Chris Hanlin, “Nancy Williams Gravestone, 1832,” Cincinnati Sites and Stories, accessed January 28, 2023, http://stories.cincinnatipreservation.org/items/show/25.