Lucy Foster, a former slave who died more than a century and a half ago and was buried in an unmarked grave, now has a proper headstone, thanks to a group of high schoolers from Massachusetts.
The students, from the all girls’ school The Academy at Penguin Hall, were part of an elective course called “Out of the Shadows,” during which the students were given the assignment to identify any former slave woman who had lived in the area and learn more about her. The students chose to focus on Lucy Foster.
Foster, the students learned, was born into slavery in 1767, and given “as a wedding gift” to Hannah and Jacob Foster. At 16, she was freed but she returned to care for Hannah later in her life. After Hannah died, she left Lucy an acre of land, a cow and some money. Upon her death in 1845, Lucy was buried in an unmarked grave in the area.
— Academy Penguin Hall (@AcadPenguinHall) May 12, 2019
The students from Penguin Hall were so taken with the story that they decided to give Lucy the burial she never received. They worked with a local historian and anthropologist and found the proper spot to honor Lucy. They then raised funds and worked with local slate artist Michael Updike to carve a headstone for Lucy. The headstone reads, “Born into captivity in Boston. Came to her freedom in Andover. Known by God and her community.”
The students’ research also found that Lucy had two children, likely ran an outdoor tavern to support herself, and that her home may have been a stop on the Underground Railroad.
“It solidifies the sense of personal connection they’ve had to this woman all through the semester,” the students’ teacher Linda Meditz told local news WCVB about the gravestone. Adding, “and I think it humanizes slavery.”
— Connor Spielmaker (@connaspiel) May 10, 2019
The memorial service took place on Saturday, and the students buried notes they had written to Lucy. “We’re proving that Lucy was here. She was relevant and important to society,” Lila Caplan, 17, told the Boston Globe. “She deserves her remembrance; she deserves her place.”
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