Name of Engagement
Shane McGary and Michelle Proulx Search for Antebellum Slave Cemeteries
Shane McGary and Michelle Proulx are using ground-penetrating radar technology to detect possible African-American burial sites at the estate of James and Dolley Madison in Orange County, Virginia, which in recent years has begun telling a more complete story.
esident archaeologist Matthew Reeves began to wonder if the site, located across the road from a wooded area with a few modest headstones, was in fact a second slave cemetery on the property. After digging into the matter on his own, he turned to Shane McGary, a noted geophysicist and professor of geology and environmental science at JMU.
“Our work is trying to get a sense of whether there are burials there, where exactly they might be, and helping [Montpelier] better understand the history of the place,” McGary says.
'Our work is trying to get a sense of whether there are burials there, where exactly they might be, and helping [Montpelier] better understand the history of the place.'
— Shane McGary, professor of geology and environmental science
For this important undertaking, McGary enlisted the help of Michelle Proulx, a senior geology major with whom he had worked at other area historical sites with oral histories of slave burial grounds. One of those sites was Belle Grove Plantation near Middletown, Virginia, the ancestral home of the Hite family, including Nelly Madison Hite, sister of James Madison.
Involves Faculty, Involves Students
May 16, 2018
One Time Only
Type of Partner
Primary Focus of Program
Cultural Institutions and Programs; Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability
Areas of Engagement
Community Engagement, Engaged Learning