This week a team of archaeologists with the URS Corporation dug up evidence of a 19th century graveyard associated with the oldest African American church in the country, Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church. Archaeologists working at the site have found evidence of grave shafts and the walls that marked the cemetery boundaries. Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church bought the land in 1810 at a time when churches and cemeteries were segregated. This land was used as a graveyard until 1864 then was soon forgotten.
This discovery is thanks to historian Terry Buckalew’s work on 19th century civil rights activists. He rallied church, neighborhood groups, and city officials into action to preserve the graveyard as a historical site. Buckalew has found records of 1500 names of those buried at the site, and estimates about 1500 more remain to be discovered. He hopes to create a genealogical database so African Americans can trace their lineage.
There is definitely a ton of work left to do at this site! I wonder if they need volunteers 🙂
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Update #1: Graves of an estimated 5,000 18th/19th century African Americans found in historic cemetery in Philadelphia.