Green Lawn Cemetery will host a guided tour of the Black Burial Site on Sunday


Coral Lopez-Jimenez reluctantly walked to the front of the class, carrying a sheet of paper with her.

The 17-year-old was a little nervous as the first volunteer in the class to read her script for an upcoming project, but quickly became more relaxed as she talked about the life of the Reverend James Poindexter, a minister from Columbus and civil rights. activist, and his work in the Eastern Union Anti-Slavery Association in the 1800s with three of his friends, Andrew Redman, John Booker and Nathan Lynn.

“Across the country, more than a quarter of a million members, white and black, male and female, have worked for almost 50 years, including the four lifelong friends buried near each other,” Lopez said. -Jimez. “They worked in secret to help runaway slaves get to Canada, but that was not all. They spoke out, attended meetings of the Ohio legislature, introduced bills, spoke at public meetings, wrote in newspapers, raised their children to be fearless, and . . . they wept and prayed together.”

Poindexter will be one of 16 people highlighted on a guided tour, produced by Lopez-Jimenez and her classmates, of historic black burial sites to be held Sunday at Green Lawn Cemetery, 1000 Greenlawn Avenue.

From 1 to 4 p.m., visitors will walk through 14 sites inside Columbus Cemetery and hear biographies of each person from members of the Fort Hayes Historical Society, a student club of Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School in Columbus City Schools. The high school is part of the Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center, which also includes a career center.

“It’s really necessary because I feel like every story needs to be told,” Lopez-Jimenez said. “Like the story I have with James Poindexter, he’s a very important person. And there are other equally important stories that need to be revealed because that’s part of the story that comes from be forgotten.”

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Honoring the Lives of Columbus’ Forgotten Residents

The historical society is organized by Eric East, a history teacher at Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School, and Doreen Uhas Sauer, local history author and former Fort Hayes teacher. The company has already made a history of the Milo-Grogan district.

As Green Lawn board member Uhas Sauer, 77, noticed the cemetery was separated and wondered how it happened. She has received grants from the Ohio History Fund and Ohio Humanities to uncover the history of black burial sites.

With the grant from the Ohio History Fund, Uhas Sauer was able to hire local historian and genealogist Nettie Ferguson to research census data, city directories and black code documents, which were laws designed to limit the freedom of blacks and ensure their availability as cheap labor. strength after the abolition of slavery.

“Ohio made (African Americans) post $500 bond and have two citizen references,” Uhas Sauer said. “And that’s how you legally settled in Ohio in the 19th century if you were a black family. That $500 bond is $18,000 today.”

Meanwhile, Uhas Sauer searched obituaries and newspaper collections from 1850 to 1950, looking for people buried at Green Lawn.

One of the people they discovered was Washington Townsend, a former slave of President Andrew Jackson.

Townsend escaped from Jackson’s plantation in Tennessee in 1860 and eventually settled in Columbus. He would go on to become a janitor at Ohio State University, listed in the employee directory in 1890, according to the Teaching Columbus website, a public history initiative spearheaded in part by Uhas Sauer.

At one point he won the favor of Edward Orton, Sr., a professor of geology and the university’s first president. Townsend died on Christmas Eve 1904 at the age of 76.

Uhas Sauer couldn’t believe all the fascinating stories she and her team were uncovering.

“The stories were so unusual,” Uhas Sauer said. “You couldn’t make that up.”

Engage students

The Ohio History Fund grant also had an educational component, and that’s how the Fort Hayes Historical Society became part of the project, Uhas Sauer said. Members of the student club began inquiring about burial sites late last school year and organized their first drive-in tour of Green Lawn in June. Uhas Sauer would eventually like to create a virtual exhibition.

Fort Hayes high school student Kit Jones decided to join the historical society last year. During Sunday’s tour, the 16-year-old Clintonville resident will discuss the lives of Elizabeth Trent and Celia Butcher, two black women who were buried as unnamed people. Trent died at the age of 20, possibly from childbirth. Meanwhile, Butcher was buried at the Old North Graveyard, where North Market now stands.

“History is such a precious thing…but we always have to have the most biased and rich view. So I’m learning more about the untold stories of Columbus,” she said.

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