Longtime Dallas Funeral Home Curates African-American History

If you want to fully understand the significance of the Black and Clark Funeral Home to North Texas, the story starts with the end of many lives.

Inside tattered books are the death certificates of African-Americans who chose to make their free lives in the 19th century south. Each turn of the worn pages takes you further back from the Civil Rights Era to Jim Crow to Reconstruction to Emancipation.

Curating this rich history is the responsibility of current owner Linda Mitchell.

"We need to know our history and I think sometimes we're so busy living and moving forward that we forget where we come from," said Mitchell. 

She took over as the funeral home's leader following the death of Otis Clark. His father was C.J. Clark, a man with only a third grade education, who helped raise the funeral home's prominence in Dallas. Clark worked closely with his uncle Samuell Black.

"Back during that time we were under [racial] segregation, Jim Crow and blacks were not being buried by white funeral homes," said Mitchell. "It was just a matter of providing dignity for us as a race of people."

That commitment is at the foundation of Black and Clark's 102 year legacy. A legacy that's also spelled out in pictures.  The company's photo collection contains pictures of weddings, colorful characters and businessmen. There's even a picture of black Dallas residents surrounding President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife Lady Bird.

"I wanted to know 'I wonder what was going on then? Why do we have a picture of the President and the First Lady'?" said Mitchell.

Although the book has closed on slavery and the segregation that followed, the story of a business and a people's survival continues.

"This needs to be kept and we need to preserve it and pass it on and tell the story," said Mitchell.

The Black and Clark Funeral Home also helped establish the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce. 

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