GEORGETOWN’S HISTORIC AFRICAN
MOUNT ZION -
FEMALE UNION BAND SOCIETY
HISTORIC MEMORIAL PARK, INC.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
We have an unprecedented opportunity to rediscover two centuries of lost African American history in Georgetown and to develop a historic memorial park as a sacred space for quiet reflection, the respectful commemoration of the past, and to EDUCATE.
These cemeteries serve to preserve and create awareness of the heritage, contributions, and sacrifices these founders of Georgetown made during their lifetimes, and provide insight to their families and the community in which they lived during a time of deep segregation.
Chevy Chase Land Company Helps Preserve the Historic Cemeteries and Fund the New Cemetery Information System
Chevy Chase Land Company employees recently gathered at the historic cemeteries for a day of service. After a walkabout discussion of the history of the grounds and the lives of interred persons, the team got to work: watering new trees, removing weeds from the headstone collections, clearing large areas of invasive plant growth, and performing restorative cleaning of headstones and memorials.
We thank CCLC for the wonderful volunteer effort - and for the donation of much-needed grass seed, historic memorial stone restoration tools and supplies, and financial support for the Foundation's development of the "Cemetery Information System"
Reclaiming Community Identity Through Opera: Voices of Zion
Community resilience rests on shared experience and history. And while lectures, historic markers, and walking tours commemorate what has come before, only the arts can bring those events—and the people who made them happen—back to life.
Voices of Zion—a new opera staged last month in Washington DC at Georgetown’s historic Dumbarton Methodist Church—underscored the role that artistic endeavors can play in this process. Featuring an original libretto written by Jarrod Lee, and music composed by 20-year-old UDC student and Duke Ellington High graduate Ronald “Trey” Walton III, Voices of Zion drew an audience of several dozen Washingtonians—young and old, White, and Black, theater buffs and community griots—to behold the coming back to life of spirits long forgotten in the city’s history (read more...)
The Historic Memorial Park Foundation and Volunteers Achieve Project Milestone in Their Quest to Deliver the "Cemeteries Information System"
For the past year, a dedicated team has been working to consolidate previous research and new sources of death, burial, and biographical information for persons interred in the cemeteries into a single database. The effort has resulted in a database of 4,000 records containing known birth, family relationships, addresses, occupations, enslavement, military service, death, and burial information. Portraits, grave/memorial, death and funeral press notices, and key personal document images are being collected as well.
While efforts to discover the identity of additional persons buried in the cemeteries and add to the biographical information and supporting documentation for already known persons will continue, the project is now equally focused on constructing the "Cemeteries Information System" technology that will enable descendants, researchers, and the public to easily access, search, and reveal biographical Profiles for individuals or groups of persons of interest.
In addition to providing a more personalized understanding of the lives of persons buried in our cemeteries, the extensive information being compiled will provide valuable perspectives of the Black Georgetown community from the late 1700s to modern times. This includes a better understanding of the breadth of occupations performed by enslaved and freed Black persons, greater detail of business ownership, and the impact the Spanish flu epidemic and military service in times of conflict had on the Black community.
To access a description of the conceptual design of the Cemetery Information System and an overview of our funding campaign click here
Please consider making a tax-deductible financial or equities gift to fund the technologies and engineering needed to deliver the Cemeteries Information System. Gifted shares of stock do not create capital gains taxes for the donor. Individuals or organizations making gifts of $500 or more will be recognized on the Foundation website and on the 'home page' of the new information system (Thank You to anonymous persons, the Blackberry Foundation, and Chevy Chase Land Company for their donations). Our fund-raising campaign is described at the end of this Cemeteries Information System conceptual overview
March 25th - the International Day of Remembrance of the 30 Million Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
The"Rhythms of Resistance" was an online cultural event – hosted by the United Nations to mark the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
The program included statements by United Nations officials and national leaders, conversations with eminent personalities, musical performances, and compelling videos about slavery and racism.
The recording of the program is available through this link
The Mount Zion - Female Union Band Society Historic Memorial Park (cemeteries) fulfills the criteria set by the UNESCO Slave Route Project in conjunction with the International Network of Managers of Sites and Itineraries of Memory.
The Foundation is seeking your help to erect a Ghana Memory Stone monument for the display of the plaque designating the historic cemeteries a UNESCO The Slave Route: Resistance, Liberty, Heritage Site of Memory. The bronze plaque addresses the history of the slave trade and slavery through the prism of intercultural dialogue, a culture of peace and reconciliation. The monument and plaque will be a prominent feature of the historic burial grounds serving to create awareness and educate the many visitors who come to reflect, and learn about the lives of the enslaved, freed Black people, and their descendants, and the contributions they made to historic Georgetown and Washington DC.
Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to fund the costs of acquisition, transport, interpretation, fabrication and installation of this Special Memory Stone monument.
Ground Penetrating Geophysical Surveys Confirms Burials in Rock Creek Facing Hillside and Land Adjacent to Mill Road
Jarrod Burks, PhD. and Alexander Corkum, PhD. recently delivered their ground-penetrating geophysical survey findings to the Foundation Board. This new survey represents an expansion of the scope and methodology of work conducted in 2018. The geophysical survey work included magnetometry, ground-penetrating radar, and electromagnetic conductivity covering an area of 1.2 acres of the cemeteries.
The magnetic and radar surveys extended the boundaries of the area surveyed in 2018. The conductivity survey is a new technique that focused on the flatter, previously surveyed ground of the cemeteries.
The survey identified an additional 24 graves over the 116 which had been previously detected. Clear evidence of rows of graves was found in the eastern half of the Mount Zion Cemetery, and these indications appear to extend down the slope at the Cemetery’s northern edge.
The team also conducted photogrammetry work to produce three-dimensional models of 10 headstones standing or laying in the cemeteries. Finally, a real-time kinematic global navigation satellite system was used to more accurately tie the existing local grid system into a geographic coordinate system. The new mapping results have been integrated into a geographic information system including all the results and cemetery features mapped to date
The full geophysical report of methodologies employed and findings of this report, and other historical survey documents, are available in the Resources section of the website.
Dr. Burks and his team are currently surveying National Park Service land along Rock Creek to determine if previously undocumented burials are present. This land was previously owned by Mount Zion Church and the Female Union Band Society Trust. Survey results will guide NPS modernization of the public trail located in the historic cemetery grounds.
Bethesda Metro and Washington DC Rotarians join together and Fund a Caretakers Shed To Store Preservation & restoration tools and supplies
(From right) Sheldon Ray and Ellie Gill, leaders of the Washington DC and Bethesda Metro Rotary Clubs respectively, join with Rotarians to present a generous financial donation to Mount Zion - Female Union Band Society Historic Park Foundation Executive Director Lisa Fager to fund the acquisition of a "Caretakers Shed".
The shed provides secure storage for tools and supplies used by volunteer groups to restore and preserve the Cemetery grounds and stone artifacts. The availability of the shed enabled tools and supplies to be removed from the cemetery vault - the vault is an important element of cemetery and underground railroad history and featured in education programs. Rotarians and other volunteers assembled the shed in early 2022.
Colonial Dames Holiday Wreath Sale Provides Valuable Financial Support For Mount Zion - Female Union Band Foundation Programs. Decoration of Graves Brought Our Community Together - To Learn About and Honor Those Buried in the Sacred Grounds.
The Historical Activities Committee of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in DC held their first community Holiday Wreath Sale - giving all proceeds to the Foundation for program support.
A large number of Dames, Church and Foundation leaders, and friends from the community decorated graves with donated wreaths, while being educated and inspired by Lisa Fager, Foundation Executive Director, Neville Waters, Foundation President, and Garett Lowe and Thomas Dunkenfield of Eagle Eye Tutoring as they shared insights to the histories of the cemeteries and to the lives of those who are buried in the sacred grounds.
Casey Trees, Washington DC and the Laudato Tree Movement Restore Mount Zion and Female union Band Society Burial Grounds Tree Canopy
Phil Downey, of the Laudato Tree Movement, and Amelia Lesniak, Project Manager at Casey Trees, worked with the Mount Zion and Female Union Band Society Historic Park Foundation to create a plan to enhance the tree canopy of the Cemeteries.
The planting of the trees honors the lives of those buried in the grounds, replaces lost canopy, mitigates erosion, provides natural habitat, and maintains the pleasant esthetic of the burial grounds.
The tree species selected are native to the region, long-lived, and require little maintenance, and include:
Species Common Name
Betula nigra 'Dura-Heat' River Birch
Ulmus americana 'Jefferson' Jefferson, American Elm
Quercus nuttallii Nutall Oak
Acer rubrum 'October Glory' October Glory, Red Maple
Quercus lyrata Overcup Oak
Quercus coccinea Scarlet Oak
Nyssa sylvatica 'Wildfire' Wildfire, Black Gum
Ten locations were identified for tree planting. The Casey Trees team planting 9 to 12-foot tall trees at the burial grounds (Volunteers - we will need your help to provide each planted tree with 10 gallons of water every two weeks through the winter).
Metro Bethesda and Washington DC Rotarians turn out (Again!) to honor those that rest in the burial grounds - restoring the grounds, removing invasive growth, and cleaning monument and grave stones
Please Consider Our Cemeteries in Your Gift Giving Plans
Your generosity will help preserve our sacred burial grounds and support our education programs. You can assist us by enrolling in the Amazon Smile program, or by funding one or more of the volunteer-led initiatives described below. THANK YOU for your support!
A Gift of Landscaping Materials
Your donation of $25, $50, $75, or $100 will fund much-needed landscaping materials such as gravel, topsoil, mulch, and grass seed. Your support enables our volunteers to keep our grounds safe for visitors, address erosion caused by stormwater and ground subsidence, and stabilize monuments.
A Gift of Gravestone Restoration
Your donation of $75 will fund restorative cleaning, mending, and remounting of a historic gravestone, such as Matilda Cartwright’s, the daughter of freed slave, Lewis Cartwright (both interred in the Female Union Band Society Cemetery)
For Information on the other ways you can financially support the preservation and restoration of the burial grounds, and our awareness and education programs, please read our "Support Us" resource.
JAMES THOMAS O'MEARA September 25, 1943 - December 18, 2019
“When I couldn’t wrestle an abstraction or put a name to a feeling, I inevitably turned to my dad. He was good at helping me understand things—not just by explaining them, but by talking them through, making me an equal partner in the enterprise. He was an expert listener, too: his eyes and smile radiated interest and reflection. Over the years, the topic of race arose in our conversations as a result of national news and from moments in my parents’ lives, either recent or resurfaced in memory. Living in a community of near-homogenous racial demographics, I relied on my mom and dad’s anecdotes and broader awareness of institutional racism to fill in the gaps of my own experience and education. My dad was the first to explain redlining to me, the process that resulted in greater racial and economic segregation in his home city of Chicago. He also recounted stories of colleagues who had been obliged to respond to others’ racist comments and did so with savvy and dignity. These episodes helped my dad understand the additional burdens of advancing professionally as a person of color, and they deepened his respect for these colleagues.” (click for full story)
Mount Zion & Oak Hill From the trails of Rock Creek Park to its sacred grounds
By Megan O’Meara
(Republished October, 2021, from the Virtual Memorial of James Thomas O’Meara - click for full story)
October 9, 2021
While working to restore two historic Black cemeteries, she discovered a construction crew digging on burial grounds
Lisa Fager uses the word “appalling” three times as she pans her phone’s camera across a strip of land that was once part of one of the oldest Black cemeteries in the nation’s capital.
In front of her, men in orange vests stand alongside a dirt path pocked with newly dug holes, showing where they’ve disturbed the earth and who knows what else.
Fager, still holding her camera up, sounds shaken and angry as she explains what she’s seeing: a construction crew working on a bike path, even though it sits on a burial ground that never saw bodies disinterred.
“It’s a cemetery for God’s sake!” she says. “ . . . I have pictures of the church doing baptisms at the water. How close were the bodies? What have they dug out?” (read more)
Black Georgetown Rediscovered: Georgetown University students Help Preserve History at a UNESCO Slave Route Project site of memory
Students enrolled in the Black Georgetown Rediscovered course toured the Mount Zion – Female Union Band Society cemeteries and helped document the estimated 9,000 African American residents of Georgetown who are buried at the historic site.
The course is part of the Summer Hilltop Immersion Program, a five-week summer program of academic, experiential learning, and social activities for the Class of 2024 and newly admitted transfer students.
Taught by Andrew Davenport, a doctoral candidate studying U.S. history and a research assistant with the Georgetown Slavery Archive, Black Georgetown Rediscovered examines Georgetown’s forgotten – and then remembered – Black history through walking tours and the book and accompanying documentary, Black Georgetown Remembered.
Lisa Fager, executive director of the Mount Zion – Female Union Band Society cemeteries, led the tour. Students then entered headstone inscriptions into a database developed by Mary Beth Corrigan, curator of the Collections on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation for the Lauinger Booth Family Center for Special Collections, in partnership with Fager’s team.
Black Georgetown Remembered
Students have been reading Black Georgetown Remembered and watching the documentary (click image) which compiles recollections from members of Georgetown’s Black community, some of whom still reside in the neighborhood.
Juneteenth - A Day for Education, Reflection, and Appreciation
Lisa Fager, Mount Zion - Female Union Band Society Foundation Executive Director, Rotarians, and friends gathered at the burial grounds to celebrate this special day, and learn how emancipation, in actual practice, occurred across the territory of the United States. Many attendees gave of themselves, working on various grounds preservation activities.
Headstones and History: Black Lives Matter(ed) Education Program
Learn about this unique education program, created through a collaboration with Thomas A. Duckenfeld III, Esq. and Garett Lowe, PhD of Eagle Eye Tutoring. Headstones and History: Black Lives Matter(ed) provides participants the opportunity to conduct original historical research and uncover some of the hidden histories of Georgetown's African Americans.
HARVARD LAW TODAY Harvard Law Bulletin - Fall 2020
Alumni Focus Hidden History - Teaching a class concentrated on two predominantly African American cemeteries, Tom Duckenfield ’89 helps uncover the stories of people who may have been forgotten but whose lives mattered
By Lewis Rice, October 15, 2020
Visit our "Resources" page
We have updated information explaining some of the symbols carved on headstones in the burial grounds, and the roster of our known military veterans.
The Ancestors Smile! DC Emancipation Celebration At the Cemeteries
The community gathered at the historic Mount Zion - Female Union Band Society cemeteries on Friday to remember ancestors on the District's Emancipation Day - the 159th year since the end of slavery in Washington, DC.
April 16th, 1862 marks the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. Over 3,000 enslaved persons were freed eight months before the Emancipation Proclamation liberated slaves in the South. The District also has the distinction of being the only part of the United States to have compensated slave owners for freeing enslaved persons they held.
The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the District of Columbia
Hosted a virtual lecture on Mount Zion - Female Union Band Historic Memorial Park, Inc. Foundation's work to Save, Restore & Honor a Sacred Space In Georgetown.
Presentation by Lisa Fager, Executive Director,
Mount Zion - Female Union Band Society
Historic Memorial Park Foundation
Next door to Dumbarton House are two adjoining, historic African American cemeteries that for decades have been hidden in plain sight. Founded in the early 1800s, the Mount Zion and Female Union Band Society cemeteries are the final resting place of thousands, many of whom were enslaved. Executive Director Lisa Fager oversees the mission of the Foundation to preserve, re-imagine, and maintain care of this sacred space that was also a stop on the Underground Railroad. Ms. Fager discussed the fascinating, important history of the cemeteries and those buried there, as well as the decades-long struggle to keep and restore the site.
Tree Planting Community Event Successfully Completed
Our anticipated five-day effort to plant a very large number of young trees on the erosion endangered crest and hillsides of the cemetery was completed in just two (long) days. This impressive accomplishment was the result of a tremendous response by the neighborhood, organizations such as the Dumbarton Garden Group, the Colonial Dames, Georgetown Univ. students, and various church member groups. Volunteers recruited and fielded fellow club members, friends, family members, and students.
We must also thank Jim Woodworth of the DC Government and members of the Rock Creek Conservancy, who provided the bare-root trees and planting tools.
Should you visit the cemetery over the next days and weeks, you will see a myriad of pink and orange flags marking the locations of the newly planted southern red oak, tulip/yellow poplar, persimmon, pawpaw, and redbud trees. These trees will help to stabilize the soil of the burial grounds, provide habitat to wildlife, prevent runoff into Rock Creek, and sustain the beauty of the sanctuary.
On behalf of the Mount Zion - Female Union Band Historic Memorial Park Foundation, the Mount Zion Methodist Church, and individuals with very personal connections to these cemeteries - thank you to everyone who rallied to help us in this very important preservation effort.
Event Completed - "Headstones & History" Black Lives Matter(ed) Presentation
The Montgomery County Genealogical Society hosted a Black History Month program featuring Lisa Fager, Executive Director, Mount Zion-Female Union Band Historic Memorial Park, Inc. Foundation
Dr. Garett Lowe and Tom Dunkenfield III of Eagle Eye Tutoring shared the histories of Mt Zion - FUBS and findings from their 2020 Summer study 4-week pilot program that provided a unique opportunity for high school and college students to conduct original historical research to uncover and memorialize some of the hidden histories of Georgetown's African Americans.
Thank you to all who attended. A link to the recording of this event will be provided when it becomes available.
Explore Georgetown’s Black history and learn how to preserve your own family photographs and documents,
The program, Black Georgetown Community History Project: Family Heirlooms was on March 19 at 1 p.m
Curators, collections managers, and other experts from Dumbarton House, Georgetown University, and Tudor Place Historic House & Garden shared tips and techniques while they explored the family collection of Neville Waters, a sixth-generation Georgetown resident and the current president of Mt. Zion – Female Union Band Society Historic Memorial Park, Inc.
This free, virtual community program was organized by Dumbarton House, Georgetown Heritage, Mt. Zion – Female Union Band Society Historic Memorial Park, Inc. and Tudor Place Historic House & Garden.
Church Members, Friends and Foundation Board Members Commemorate the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Dedicate the Cemeteries' National Register of Historic Places Designation Plaque
Click Images Above to Pause or Enlarge
We gathered on the plateau to reflect, honor and celebrate the lives of Dr. Martin Luther King and those interred in our cemeteries. Lisa Fager, Foundation Executive Director shared the ceremony program and context of the cemeteries' designation in the National Register of Historic Places. Vernon Ricks, Chairperson, Mount Zion United Methodist Church Trustee and Foundation Board member, shared scripture. "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was performed by acclaimed artist Deborah Bond. Neville Waters, Foundation Board President, shared perspectives of the history of the cemeteries, and the role of his grandfather and father in the black Georgetown community. Patrick Tisdale, Volunteer Activity Coordinator presented a story written to honor the day. Nana Malaya Rucker led the assembled in a spirited Libation ceremony and procession. Finally, the community and program participants unveiled and dedicated the National Register of Historic Places designation plaque. Images by James Newton Photography
The placement of the plaque in the entrance area of the Female Union Band Society Cemetery:
Informs visitors that the “park-like” and wooded grounds before them are in fact a sacred historic burial ground for thousands of individuals
Provides visitors information about the history of the cemeteries, the lives, and contributions made by the interred to the establishment of Georgetown and to the transition of the United States to a post-slavery era
The NRHP Sign supports the Mount Zion - Female Union Band Memorial Park, Inc. Foundation goal of the burial grounds being a living historic memorial