African American Heritage Trail – Symbols of the Cause

February 1, 2013

In 1831, the year of Mount Auburn’s founding, Henry A. S. Dearborn, one of Mount Auburn’s founders and designers, wrote that at the new cemetery “there will repose the ashes of the humble and exalted, in the silent and sacred Garden of the Dead.”[1]  In the years that followed, among its hills and valleys, meadows and ponds, the Cemetery became a cultural landscape of memorials dedicated to the dead. Some monuments were erected with the support of individuals and groups other than family members. Many were moved to commemorate the lives of those who became potent symbols of the abolitionist cause. The artistry and eloquence of two enduring memorials tell the stories of abolitionist minister Rev. Charles T. Torrey and fugitive slave Peter Byus, and have inspired visitors to the Cemetery ever since.

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[1] H.S. Dearborn, “Proceedings of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, Oct. 1, 1831” reported in the New England Farmer and Horticultural Journal, Oct. 5, 1831.

Funding for this project has been provided by the 1772 Foundation; Mass Humanities; the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (made possible by the National Park Service, National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom); the Cambridge Arts Council and the Watertown Cultural Council (local agencies supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency); and contributions from Sydney Nathans, Mary K. Zervigon, and the family of Katherine Knox.

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