UW Platteville students repair headstone of enslaved African American

Madison, Wis (WMTV) -- A group of UW-Platteville History Students spent their morning preserving history at Hillside Cemetery by repairing the headstone of an enslaved African American.

Historians said around 1828, Rachel was given to John Rountree as a gift. Then, she was brought back to Platteville, illegally, as a slave.

The students explained they want to bring her headstone and her story back to life.

“We're doing this for Rachel. We feel like we should actually put her to peace,“ Brandon Snyder, UW Platteville History Student said.

Dr. Eugene Tesdahl, UW Platteville Assistant Professor, dug up old documents from the 1800s that led him to Hillside cemetery.

Rachel's foot stone was battered and broken so the students wanted to help piece together what she had left.

"Doing research and touching physical documents as well, it's a lot to take in," Snyder said.

They turned Rachel’s foot stone into a headstone and glued pieces of history back together to tell a story of the past.

“She was a slave for around 13 years from1828-1841, and then she remained in Rountree’s household until around 1854," Snyder said.

It’s a painful truth of the past, but a story, they said, needs to be told.

“By the 1820's over 100 African Americans were enslaved illegally in Wisconsin and were held against their will," Tesdahl said.

Once the headstone is clean, the letter ‘R’-- Rachel’s initial- will be uncovered.

This project is a part of ongoing research from Tesdahl and his history students. The goal is to uncover information about enslaved African Americans in the southwest Wisconsin region.