The UNESCO Slave Route project: Resistance, Liberty, Heritage
Launched in 1994, the international and inter-regional project ‘The Slave Route: Resistance, Liberty, Heritage’ addresses the history of the slave trade and slavery through the prism of intercultural dialogue, a culture of peace and reconciliation. It thereby endeavours to improve the understanding and transmission of this human tragedy by making better known its deep-seated causes, its consequences for societies today and the cultural interactions born of this history. The project is structured around five key fields of activity: scientific research, development of educational materials, preservation of written archives and oral traditions, promotion of living cultures and contributions by the African diaspora and, lastly, preservation of sites of memory.
The promotion of the memorial heritage related to the slave trade and slavery plays a decisive role not only in educating the general public, and young people in particular, but also in facilitating national reconciliation and social cohesion processes in societies.
It is in this perspective that ‘The Slave Route project has created a label to encourage the preservation of sites of memories and the establishment of itineraries that can tell this story and ensure that this heritage receives due attention at the national, regional and international levels.
This site fulfills the quality criteria set by the UNESCO Slave Route Project in conjunction with the International Network of Managers of Sites and Itineraries of Memory.
Mount Zion and Female Union Band Society Cemetery
Founded in 1879, the Mt. Zion Cemetery (formerly the Old Methodist Burying Ground) leased for 99 years the east end of the Dumbarton Avenue Methodist Church adjoining the older Female Union Band graveyard for $1 as a burial for its members. The Female Union Band was a benevolent society that purchased its burial ground in 1842. The west end of the cemetery was purchased by the Female Union Band Society as a graveyard for free African Americans and abuts the Mt. Zion Cemetery. No burial occurred after 1950 when the city barred burials for health violations. The “cemetery” battled takeovers and developers of this prime Georgetown property well into the 1970’s. Rev. Lon B. Chestnut, Mt. Zion’s pastor from 1969 – 1975 successfully petitioned to have the cemetery designated a District of Columbia landmark and both the cemetery and the church were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Financial shortages resulted in the cemetery’s decline. Several notable African American Georgetown and metropolitan Washington, DC residents are buried at Mt. Zion Cemetery, including: Mary Logan Jennings, a descendant of one of the founders of the Female Union Band Society; Edgar Murphy, one of the builders of Mt. Zion Church; Caleb Hawkins, a restaurant proprietor, officer of Mt. Zion, and business investor; Charles Turner, sometimes referred to as the African American mayor of Georgetown; Robert Holmes, established wholesale oyster and an oil and gas businesses; Clement Morgan, a honor graduate of Harvard university; and many more. The cemeteries also served as the final resting places for former slaves, business persons, property owners, soldiers, politicians, educators and many others.
(Source: Black Georgetown Remembered)