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Forgotten history brought to light 0

Albany

It took a village to bring history to light in Kinderhook.

A group of residents there have been quietly working to restore headstones in the Persons of Color Cemetery in Rothermel Park, which was rededicated last year.

There are about a dozen legible headstones in the cemetery, most of which denote the graves of children.

The Albany Institute of History and Art will host a free film screening of “Brought to Light: Unearthing the History of an African American Cemetery in Kinderhook” at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, at 125 Washington Ave.

A story of rediscovery, respect and change, the hour-long documentary highlights the efforts of villagers to uncover stone markers in an overgrown field, which led them to a forgotten cemetery where hundreds of African Americans were buried during the 1800s.

A portal to the past lives of Kinderhook’s lesser-known population, the film explores black history and the efforts of residents to restore and call attention to the Persons of Color Cemetery, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“From the moment that I first visited the Persons of Color Cemetery, I felt that there was an untold story here,” said Barbara Reina, who wrote, directed and produced the film. “While ‘Brought to Light’ tells a factual story, lingering mysteries and unanswered questions about those buried in the cemetery remain.”

The documentary — chosen as one of six from around the state to be showcased in the Archaeology Video Festival at the New York Archaeology Conference in April — is being screened this fall around the Capital Region. A Q&A with the filmmaker follows.

It features interviews with Roxanne Jones Booth, an adjunct professor in the Department of Africana Studies at the University at Albany; Lisa Anderson, New York State Museum bioarchaeologist; and Michael Lucas, curator of historical archaeology at the Columbia County Historical Society.

Narrated by Demetria Bridges, the film includes footage from an archaeological dig and a ground penetrating radar survey conducted at the site, as well as excerpts from last year’s cemetery rededication.

Ruth Piwonka, Kinderhook village and town historian, was part of the ceremony, where an interpretative sign was unveiled to recognize the cemetery’s history.

More Information

A portal to the past

“Brought to Light: Unearthing the History of an African American Cemetery in Kinderhook” will be screened Oct. 11 in Albany. Go to albanyinstitute.org.

Piwonka said that there may be more than 500 people buried on the plot of land set aside by village resident John Rogers in 1813.

Rogers lived nearby on Broad Street and owned the land that would become Rothermel Park.

According to the sign, Rogers directed in his will that part of his land should be used “for a cemetery for the people of colour in the said town of Kinderhook to use for that purpose and none other.”

The documentary touches on this history and more in Columbia County.

Amy Freinberg-Trufas and Charles Logan lend their voices to a dramatization that recounts a piece of oral history connecting Valatie with the Underground Railroad.

Logan is the voice of Rogers, who was an Irish immigrant.

“Being of Irish and African American descent, I find this local history interesting,” Logan said.

“It’s an important part of our history and offers us an opportunity to examine our past and illuminate our future,” Freinberg-Trufas added.

[email protected] @JenSPatterson 518-454-5340

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