“Only by coming to terms with history can we free ourselves to create a more just world.” – Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s twenty-eighth president, in a speech acknowledging the university’s early ties to slavery.
These words embody the underlying motivation of the Witness Stones project. In order for our communities to grow in the extent to which they reflect our ideals of justice and equality, it is important for us to acknowledge and confront the painful times in our history when we have not lived up to those ideals. Through remembrance and reconciliation, we are able to navigate a path toward healing and growth. It is with this in mind that the Witness Stones project seeks to restore the memory, and honor the humanity and contributions of the enslaved individuals who helped build our communities.
Inspired by the Stolpersteine project in Germany (and with their blessing), we hope to bear witness by installing a marker which recalls an individual enslaved person at a site of significance where they lived, worked, or prayed. We cannot change the past, but we can, through this project, give a voice to the voiceless and uncover their stories. We will partner with local schools to help students research the history of an enslaved individual from their community and reconstruct the memory of that person through the written record and, ultimately, with the installation of a commemorative Witness Stone.
The Witness Stones themselves will be handcrafted of stone and brass reflecting the inspiration of the Stolpersteine (which translates to Stumbling Stones). Upon the brass will be stamped the name of the enslaved individual together with something that was known about them, and whether they were emancipated or died enslaved, with corresponding dates.
What we learn about the individual through the students’ research will be shared at the ceremony for the installation of the Witness Stone, published in a commemorative pamphlet, and archived on our website. Ultimately, we hope for this to become a digital library of the knowledge and memory that we acquire through this project.
We welcome your feedback and input. Contact Us