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“We’ll Always Remember”

Third-graders honor enslaved people who lived in their town long ago.

Last year, Liam Brady and Jasmine Hagbourne learned something in social studies class that surprised them. Long ago, slavery was legal in their city of Medford, Massachusetts. Enslaved people were forced to work, and their work helped Medford grow. But their lives were mostly forgotten. About 50 enslaved people were buried in a city cemetery— without a grave marker or sign to honor them.

The kids talked to their teacher, Michael Coates, to learn more. They decided to take action.

“We started planning to get a grave marker made,” Jasmine says. “It was a way to honor the slaves.”

A Sad Past

Slavery is a painful part of American history. From the 1600s to the 1800s, hundreds of thousands of people were taken from their homes in Africa and brought to America. They were sold, then forced to work on farms and in homes. They were seen as property instead of as human beings.

Massachusetts and other Northern states banned slavery by the early 1800s. But slavery continued in the South. From 1861 to 1865, the country fought the Civil War over slavery. It was finally outlawed in all of the United States in 1865.

Working Together

To honor their city’s enslaved people, Jasmine and Liam teamed up with two older students. Together, they did research. They studied old documents to find the names of enslaved people buried in the Salem Street Burial Ground.

The kids also learned that a grave marker can be very expensive. So Jasmine and Liam began fund-raising. They asked Medford city officials for help. After raising more than $4,000, they decided what the grave marker should look like and paid a company to make it.

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At a special ceremony, Jasmine and Liam spoke to a crowd. Then they unveiled the grave marker they designed for the cemetery.

A Lasting Memorial

When the marker was ready, a ceremony was held at the burial ground. Jasmine and Liam helped unveil the marker. They also read aloud the names of enslaved people buried there.

The kids are proud of their project. “If we did not put the marker down, it would be easier for people to forget about the slaves,” says Liam. “We’ll always remember.”

1. What does it mean to be enslaved?

2. What inspired Jasmine and Liam to take action?

3. Summarize the steps Jasmine and Liam took to achieve their goal.

Close-Reading Questions

Click the Google Quiz button below to share these Close-Reading Questions with your class.

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