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Headstones and History: Black Lives Matter(ed)

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Students Memorialized the Lives of Free and Enslaved African Americans who lived, died, and were buried in historic Georgetown from 1740 – 1940

Washington, DC – July 29, 2020—The Mt. Zion Female Union Band Society Historic Memorial Park, Inc. and Eagle Eye Tutoring, Inc. jointly announced today the successful completion of their summer study 4-week project (the Project) which has provided unique opportunities for 30 middle school, high school, and college students to conduct original historical research to uncover and memorialize some of the hidden history of Georgetown’s African Americans. 

The resultant database of vital statistics, biographies, interviews, photos, audio, and video will be donated to the Mt. Zion – Female Union Band Historic Memorial Park. At the final class, at the Cemetery (2501 Mill Road Northwest, Washington, DC 20007), Nana Malaya Rucker led a Libation Ceremony on behalf of the Mt. Zion – Female Union Band Society Historic Memorial Park. Everyone was encouraged to wear white in order to celebrate life (not mourn), and students told the stories they have uncovered and demonstrated that Black Lives Matter.

A vibrant community in historic 18th, 19th, and 20th-century Georgetown, African Americans led varied lives as physicians, real estate tycoons, business proprietors, artisans, chefs, draymen, coachmen, and general laborers.  One, Jesuit priest Patrick Francis Healy, was the 29th president of Georgetown University. They raised families, played, laughed, grieved, and loved before, during and after the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World Wars I and II.  Their stories have largely been ignored, forgotten, and covered up. 

In June 2020, the Initial Class of the Project met at the Mt. Zion – Female Union Band Cemetery, a Site of Memory associated with the UNESCO Slave Route Project and listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.  Located in a secluded, forgotten corner in the Herring Hill section of Georgetown, the cemetery is the final resting place of the thousands of African Americans who were buried there between 1809 to 1950 and who are the focus of the Project.  Using just the names and dates extracted from crumbling, cracked, and broken tombstones or surviving burial records, students were challenged to reconstruct the lives of at least five individuals. 

Thereafter, in two, two-hour Zoom sessions per week — led by avocational genealogists and historians Garrett Lowe of Eagle Eye Tutoring, Inc. and Tom Duckenfield of TDB Communications, Inc. — students learned how to use and evaluate (1) primary documents (e.g., birth, marriage, and death records; will and probate records; “free negro” registrations; emancipation compensation petitions; and Freedmen’s Bureau records); (2) documents digitized in online digital genealogy platforms such as www.ancestry.com ; and (3) original documents archived in state, local, and federal repositories. Students also reviewed several secondary sources, including contemporary newspapers, city directories, and scholarly books, journals, and articles.   

For more information about Mt. Zion /Female Union Band Historic Memorial Park, please visit  https://www.BlackGeorgetown.com or contact Lisa Fager, Executive Director at LFager@MtZion-FUBS.org  or  (202) 253-0435.

For more information about Eagle Eye Tutoring, please visit https://www.eagleeyetutoring.com  

ABOUT THE MOUNT ZION FEMALE UNION BAND HISTORIC MEMORIAL PARK, INC.

The Mount Zion / Female Union Band Historic Memorial Park Inc. (Foundation) is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization incorporated in 2005 in Washington, DC. to jointly manage the preservation and commemoration of the Mt. Zion and Female Union Band Society Cemeteries.  The three-acre Mount Zion Cemetery/Female Union Band Society Cemetery is composed of two roughly equal-sized halves, the Mount Zion Cemetery on the east and the Female Union Band Society Cemetery on the west, separated along a subtle north-south ridge in the center of the property. The northern and eastern property lines border Rock Creek Park, and the western line follows a ravine along the Twenty-Seventh Street, N.W., right-of-way (an unimproved public road) heading to Rock Creek. Approximately three-quarters of the length of the southern boundary is formed by Mill Road, with the remaining eastern portion of the southern line bordering a private apartment building. Historically called the Old Methodist Burying Ground, the cemetery originated as a churchyard burial ground and subsequently evolved in terms of changing ownership and frequency of use. It was established by the Montgomery Street Methodist Church in 1808, which gathered at the Montgomery Street Meeting House, formerly located on Twenty-Eighth Street between M and Olive Streets, N.W. (formerly Montgomery Street between Bridge and Olive Streets), approximately one-half mile southwest of the cemetery.  To learn more about the Foundation, visit https://www.BlackGeorgetown.com  .

ABOUT EAGLE EYE TUTORING

At Eagle Eye, we do one-on-one tutoring.  Our years of experience tutoring students nationally and internationally made for a smooth transition to virtual tutoring. We teach and help students, so they can accomplish what they need to and then move on – more competent and confident. How do we do this? Our motto guides our work: Simplify, Strive, Succeed. To learn more about the firm, visit https://www.eagleeyetutoring.com

ABOUT GARRETT LOWE, PhD.

Garrett Lowe is a third-generation Washingtonian, whose family is a mishmash of Puritans in New England and Irish immigrants, fleeing the Famine. He has focused on family history for nearly twenty years, enjoying especially the process of chasing down clues and uncovering lost stories. His ancestors fought in the French and Indian War, successfully defended accused a witch in Massachusetts Bay Colony, fled Ireland after attacking a British tax collector, and made a small fortune selling whiskey after the Civil War. His second great grandfather was a friend of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and he paid off the debts of two different AME churches in the South during Reconstruction. His great aunt died in the Spanish Flu, and his great uncle was severely wounded by German machine-gun fire in WWI. Although he is one of the most direct descendants of Clara Barton alive, most of his ancestors were not particularly famous, but their lives were real and interesting.

Garrett attended St. Albans School and St. Marks School in Massachusetts, before receiving his BA from the University of Pennsylvania. Later, he earned an MA in Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto (14th-century literature) and then a PhD in Biology from the University of Maryland (bird migration) – a group of fascinating but highly impractical areas of study.

Garrett founded Eagle Eye Tutoring in 2014 and has helped students prepare for a wide range of standardized tests for over 15 years. He is married to Stephanie Lowe, who comes from Tulsa, Oklahoma and whose family history is full of moonshiners, farmers and scoundrels.

ABOUT THOMAS A. DUCKENFIELD III, ESQ.

Tom Duckenfield was born in 1964 at historic Freedmen’s Hospital, established a century earlier in Washington, DC by the Medical Division of the Freedmen’s Bureau to provide care to former enslaved persons freed following the Civil War. His maternal and paternal roots are firmly entrenched in the Commonwealth of Virginia, including Westmoreland County, Richmond County, Northumberland County, Caroline County, Hanover County, Greensville County, and Richmond City.  Through his mother, Evelyn Newman Duckenfield, he is both a double-descendant of the Thompson and Newman families of Westmoreland County, manumitted in 1791 by Councillor Robert Carter III’s Deed of Gift, as well as a descendant of James McCoy, a Westmoreland County Free Black Patriot of the American Revolutionary War.  Through his late father, Thomas A. Duckenfield, Sr., he is a descendant of Free Black indentured servant Penelope Pugh (b. 1748, Bertie, NC) and Sir Nathaniel Duckenfield, Jr. (b. 1746, Cheshire, England), a British Loyalist during the American Revolutionary War and 5th Baron of Dukinfield, England.

Tom is the CEO of TDB Communications, Inc.  Previously, he practiced law in several law firms in the areas of corporate finance, commercial transactions, renewable energy, government contracts, and international trade.  He served in the U.S. Army as an infantry lieutenant, captain in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, and Assistant to the Army General Counsel in the Pentagon.  Tom  attended St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School in Washington, DC from 1971 to 1973; graduated in 1982 cum laude from St. Albans School in Washington, DC; received an A.B degree in History, cum laude, from Princeton University in 1986; a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School in 1989; and received an England & Wales Solicitor Qualification through the Oxford Institute for Legal Studies in 2011.  His hobbies and interests include genealogy; international travel; pick-up ice-hockey; and book, stamp, and coin collecting.  Mr. Duckenfield is married to Lynnette Ecraela-Duckenfield, who hails from Antique, Philippines, and they have a daughter Catherine and a son Thomas.

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