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Walter Pierce Park Archeology Project

April 26, 2009
Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, project supporter, and Howard University Professor Mark Mack, a forensic anthropologist who is leading the research effort into the cemetery.

Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham and Howard University Professor Mark Mack, a forensic anthropologist who leads the research team surveying the cemetery.

On Saturday (4/25) we participated in an event at Walter Pierce Park sponsored by a group seeking to document and preserve the 19th Century African American and Quaker cemeteries on the slope at the north and west sides of the park into Rock Creek Park near Duke Ellington (Calvert Street) Bridge. How many of the people who cross Ellington Bridge between the Woodley/Zoo Metro and Adams Morgan every day are aware they are passing by a cemetery where more than 7000 people were buried? Few of the bodies were disinterred after the the Colored Union Benevolent Association cemetery was forced closed in 1890 as a consequence of development pressures. On Saturday, the research team headed by Howard University forensic anthropologist Mark Mack demonstrated the ground penetrating radar that will be used to survey the cemetery grounds.

The effort to preserve and commemorate the cemetery offers a fascinating case of how cities forget (and how they remember). I suspect most people would respond along the lines of the question I overheard a reporter asking DC-parks activist Steve Coleman (Parks and People): How this cemetery could just be forgotten?

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