David Brian and Stephen Punga

Recipients of the 2019 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching

January 13, 2020

Académie Ste-Cécile International School, Windsor, Ontario

David Brian and Stephen Punga brought together their grade 11 geography students and grade 12 history students for a collaboration called the Lost Cemeteries Project.

Together, the students researched, surveyed and published an interactive map and database of headstones belonging primarily to settlers of African descent in Essex County, Ontario.

Many of the gravesites were neglected or undocumented, leading students to investigate the historical context of the settlements and the enduring legacy of slavery, racism, and discrimination against early Black settlers and their descendants.

Students completed several days of fieldwork in four cemeteries to collect data and photograph hundreds of individual headstones. For the project’s culmination, the students published their research and data in a high-quality digital map and presented their research to the Town of Essex.

The project integrated history and geospatial tools and technologies, and provided an authentic opportunity for students to consult with historians, town planners and GIS technologists. Through the Lost Cemeteries Project, the students not only researched their community history, but also took an active role in preserving it, by creating an accessible research tool that is a legacy for future historians.