Teens help clean up historic African-American cemetery, learn its history

High school students near our nation’s capital are doing their part to preserve the history of the country.

Students at McKinley Tech High School were learning about the people buried at Mount Zion and Female Union Band Society Cemetery located in Georgetown, WRC reported.

They were taught about the cemetery itself and its role in the underground railroad. Runaway slaves would hide in a burial crypt on the sacred ground.

But when the teens found out that the cemetery was in need of repair and saw the condition of the land first-hand, they decided to help.

"It makes me feel distraught, because the graveyard is ruined and run down and it has to do with my history and African-American history, and it's not cleaned up," Laila Holsendorff told WRC.

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With gloves and trash bags in hand, the students fanned out cleaning up and weeding the final resting place of so many.

Between 8,000 and 10,000 people were buried at the cemetery, many were African-Americans from Washington, D.C. They were buried there for almost 150 years, from 1808 to 1950.

The Mount Zion Memorial Park Foundation is working to change the cemetery into a memorial park.

"It's not being honored; it's sacred ground," foundation executive director Lisa Fager told WRC. "These people worked for all the people who established this country, congressional members. They built the buildings, and it just feels so sad that we have not been able to say their names or remember them."