ANDOVER, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Thanks to a group of students at Wenham's Academy at Penguin Hall, a former slave buried in an Andover cemetery finally has a headstone.
Lucy Foster died more than 170 years ago, and was a slave from age 4 to 16.
Her new gravestone is the result of Penguin Hall history teacher Linda Meditz and her students' hard work.
"Born into captivity in Boston / Came to her freedom in Andover / Known by God and her community," the headstone reads.
Meditz challenged her students at the beginning of the school year to try to find a woman who had been held as a slave here in Massachusetts, find where she was buried, and if she had been buried without a marker. It didn't take long for them to find a name.
"My student Caroline Buck came back to school in a very excited way, found me in the hall, and said we have a name," Meditz said. "And that was the beginning of what became our year-long project."
They didn't know much about Lucy at first, but eventually found that she had been born in Boston in 1767. After she attained her freedom, she came back to care for her former mistress, Hannah Foster, when she was ailing and dying.
"Hannah left Lucy an acre of land, a cow, and a small amount of money, and she was able to build a small cottage and live there for many years as an independent and free woman," Meditz said.
Junior Elise Welch said the class got to know Foster pretty well.
"I think of a very powerful and independent woman," she said.
Later, when archaeologists in the 1940s excavated the land under and around Lucy's home, they found household items like china, pottery, and other dishes. Because of this, historians believe Lucy established an outdoor tavern in order to support herself.
"A scholar that we brought onboard from UMass Amherst believes that it was a stop on the Underground Railroad as well," Meditz said.
Once the students uncovered Lucy's history, they moved onto the second part of their project—finding a proper marker for the spot where Foster was buried.
The students placed the stone at a remembrance ceremony for Foster on Saturday.
"I think that we kind of gave this woman a voice after all these years, and that's something that she really deserved" Junior Autumn Armano said.
Meditz said the project was something the students will never forget.
"Thus, history didn't seem like a dry, dusty topic, but something they came to care deeply about," she said.
WBZ NewsRadio's Carl Stevens (@carlwbz) reports