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Castine Historical Society preserves local African-American legacy

Community members are working to preserve the 19th-century gravesites.

CASTINE, Maine — The Castine Historical Society has made strides in an effort to keep its African-American history intact.

“His grave had been overgrown by lilac bushes and... anyone who knows lilacs, it happens a lot. So we had that trimmed back by the cemetery committee, and we encouraged them to have the gravestone cleaned,” Lisa Lutts, the Castine Historical Society director, said. 

Lutts and Castine Historical Society volunteer Georgia Zildjian have led the restoration thus far. This included the cleaning of the headstones of two of Castine’s earliest African-American residents, Mary Jackson and Andrew Walker.

“About three years ago after the murder of George Floyd, we started looking at our own research and realized this was an area we had not focused on and so for the last three years we’ve been researching and uncovering the stories of African-Americans who lived here most of the 19th century,” Lutts said. 

When Zildjian spoke with NEWS CENTER Maine, she highlighted that maintaining the legacies of these African-Americans is a town priority now. 

“Their stories and their presence in our town are just as important as the rest of the town’s history,” Zildjian said. 

“We feel a special affinity to them. There are no descendants left. And so we are making sure their graves are taken care of and cleaned and looking,” Lutts said. 

The Castine Historical Society has planned a walking tour that will highlight the historical location, lives, and impact of African-Americans within the town of Castine. That walking tour is scheduled for October 14.

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