High School Students Help Preserve Historic African American Cemetery in DC

Mount Zion and Female Union Band Society Cemetery in Georgetown received some much needed care after a group of high school students learned of its deteriorated condition.

Mount Zion and Female Union Band Society Cemetery is a historic African American cemetery. Between 8,000 and 10,000 people were buried there in a period from 1808 to 1950.

The students from McKinley Tech High School learned about the site from their history teacher Alysha Butler. Butler helped the students research more about the graveyard and its role in the underground railroad. When the students went to visit Mount Zion, they were upset to see that the cemetery had fallen into disrepair.

One student Laila Holsendorff said, “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.”

The students started an effort to clean up the cemetery, picking weeds and gathering garbage. The website for Mount Zion reveals that a large-scale preservation plan was started in 2017. However, there is no indication that this plan has progressed in the ensuing two years.