Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Green-Wood staff recently discovered that in the nineteenth century, an entire section of our cemetery was reserved for African Americans, even though the Cemetery was not segregated as a rule.

Under the guidance of our director of restoration and preservation, a team of high school students brought this special area, the largest undisturbed Black burial ground north of the Mason-Dixon line, back to life. Learn about the Freedom Lots online!

Curriculum Connections:

New York State Social Studies Framework (Grade 6-8)

Gathering, Interpreting, and Using Evidence

1. Identify, effectively select, and analyze different forms of evidence used to make meaning in social studies (including primary and secondary sources such as art and photographs, artifacts, oral histories, maps, and graphs).

New York State Social Studies Framework Practices (Grade 7-8)

Gathering, Interpreting, and Using Evidence

1. Define and frame questions about the United States that can be answered by gathering, interpreting, and using evidence.

2. Identify, select, and evaluate evidence about events from diverse sources (including written documents, works of art, photographs, charts and graphs, artifacts, oral traditions, and other primary and secondary sources).

3. Analyze evidence in terms of historical context, content, authorship, point of view, purpose, and
format; identify bias; explain the role of bias and audience in presenting arguments or evidence.

Materials:

Freedom Lots story map

● Notebook and pencil or computer for typing

Introduction:

● Have students explore and read the introduction to the Freedom Lots on the Freedom Lots story map online.

● Make sure they understand the history of the Freedom Lots: In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this section of the Cemetery was known as “The Colored Lots.” Over 1,300 African Americans were laid to rest in this area. Today it is known as The Freedom Lots, a name proposed by Green-Wood’s high school interns to restore respect to those buried there. It is one of the largest existing burial grounds for African Americans who lived in New York City in the last two centuries. While Green-Wood’s records show no evidence of an official policy specifying that these seven lots were for African Americans exclusively, it’s clear that the individuals buried here were segregated in death as they were in life. By researching the people buried in The Freedom Lots, we can connect their stories to historical events and begin to understand how history is recorded, who records history, who is remembered, and whose stories were never told.

● Additional resources:

o At this link, watch this video on the project made by The New Yorker and read the accompanying article.

o Explore more stories about life in the nineteenth century for Black New Yorkers at the Black Gotham Archive

Exploration:

● Optional: In a notebook, make a three-column table. From left to right, label the columns KNOW, INFER, and WONDER. For each source this use this to discuss what you know, infer, and wonder about each person.

● Using the Freedom Lots story map online, explore the stories of:

o John Munroe

o Lucinda Williams

o Association for the Benefit of Colored Orphans

o Rufus Cliff

o Stephen Little

● Have students read the background information on each person and examine the photograph of their monument.

● Write out what you know, infer, and wonder just from looking at their monument.

● Then look at the primary sources linked on the website. Discuss as a group: How does each source add to your understanding about this person’s life? What questions about each person do you still have? How might you do further research to learn more?

● Ask students: How do you feel these people should be remembered today? Would you change the information on their monument or change their monument all together?

Learn more about Black Soldiers in the American Civil War:

Black soldiers in the U.S. Military during the Civil War, National Archives

Black Soldiers in the Civil War, American Battlefield Trust

Learn more about the Colored Orphan Asylum:

Colored Orphan Asylum, MAAP Project, Columbia University

The New York Draft Riots and the burning of the Colored Orphan Asylum, The New-York Historical Society

Remembering a Vile Civil War Act on Fifth Avenue, The New York Times

Activity:

● Think about the different people you learned about who are buried in the Freedom Lots and pick one to re-memorialize. How do you think this person should be remembered today? What parts of their life would you like to share on their monument?

● Design a memorial or monument for one person you learned about that shares a part of their life and helps us remember who they were, incorporating words and pictures.

● Share your work with your class, your family, or even with Green-Wood! Post what you created to Instagram using the hashtag #GreenWoodIsMyClassroom.