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Odd Fellows Cemetery Illumination Tribute

August 12, 2016 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

No cost

To commemorate Emancipation Day and to honor all souls in Odd Fellows Cemetery who lived during the time of slavery, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville College of Architecture and Design and the Knoxville ReAnimation Coalition (KRC) are hosting an Illumination Tribute in the cemetery on Aug. 12, 7:30 p.m. Additionally, UT students will fortify the cemetery’s pathways on Aug. 9 and 10.

The tribute will include a lighting of the candles, a Negro Spiritual, a reading of the names and a short narrative about the rich history of the cemetery. More than 250 candles will light the sites of the grave markers. Located at 2001 Bethel Avenue, Odd Fellows Cemetery is one of Knoxville’s first dedicated African-American burial grounds, founded around 1880 and containing more than 6,000 graves.

“This event gives us an opportunity to give back to this community that has taught us so much about pride and grace,” said Katherine Ambroziak, associate professor in the UT School of Architecture. “While there is little definitive information on those in the cemetery who were enslaved—some were slaves and some were not—we recognize all our ancestors were affected by this tragic institution. With the promise of emancipation, we are proud to celebrate the fact that all those interred in Odd Fellows Cemetery died as free men and women.”

To volunteer, contact Katherine Ambroziak,, 865-456-1435.

Since 2009, UT, KRC and the City of Knoxville have collaborated with community and student volunteers to bring about change in Odd Fellows Cemetery. Led by KRC founder Stephen Scruggs and UT’s Ambroziak, the reclamation project is a community-oriented outreach initiative that seeks to restore community memory and pride by engaging participants in a process of restoration and design of a memorial landscape. The program proposes a rehabilitation that directly addresses the negative physical and social influences affecting the area and offers the community a safe, engaging and respectful environment to rediscover its heritage.

Over the past seven years, faculty from UT’s College of Architecture and Design have worked with more than 1,500 community and student volunteers on various projects in Odd Fellows Cemetery. Volunteers from Project GRAD, Chi Sigma Iota and Liberty Church have helped to map the 250 stones to which the illumination event pays tribute.

Work in the cemetery has also included designing and building a community passage. On Aug. 9 and 10, 9:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-4 p.m., nearly 180 architecture students and university freshmen participating in UT’s Center for Leadership and Service Ignite Serves program will be working to further build and fortify the earthen walkways that provide safe, accessible passage through the cemetery. This is the fourth year that Ignite Serves will be volunteering in the cemetery, providing energy and spirit to help construct 1,300 linear feet of passage to date.

The Illumination Tribute is part of the Second Annual Eighth of August Jubilee, a week-long celebration of Emancipation in Knoxville coordinated by Beck Cultural Exchange Center. The jubilee starts on Aug. 7 with a Libation Ceremony at the Freedmen’s Mission Historic Cemetery adjacent to Knoxville College and concludes on Aug. 13, with a Jubilee in the Park, Chilhowee Park Marble Pavilion. Visit for more details.

The Knoxville ReAnimation Coalition is a grass-roots, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to educate and create a greater sense of self-worth amongst Knoxville’s African-American community through projects that illuminate and valorize its past achievements. It strives to strengthen social structures and restore community identity.

For more information about the UT College of Architecture and Design, visit

In the case of heavy rain, the event might be delayed or cancelled. Contact Ambroziak with questions about possible changes in the schedule due to weather.


August 12, 2016
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
No cost