Learning about history is the common theme of two new projects that were dedicated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, May 17 at Lincoln Cemetery in Gulfport.
Alicia R. Isaac, a teacher at Boca Ciega High School and adjunct professor at St. Petersburg College, uses her academic degrees, including a doctorate in public administration and American government, to bring people together who share a vision – in this case about Lincoln Cemetery.
Her first project with high school students involved shepherding the content of a historical book entitled “The Lincoln Cemetery Chronicles” from concept to fruition in 2017.
For the spring semester of 2018, she led students to create two finished works for the cemetery: a second book entitled, “Michael’s Grand Adventure in Lincoln Cemetery” and a self-guided walking tour of 19 custom wooden gravesite plaques designed to educate visitors about the historical significance of heroes who are buried there. A large directory and map of the plaques has been installed at the cemetery’s entrance along with a box of reusable, laminated maps of the tour.
Isaac collaborates with Vanessa Gray, president of the non-profit Lincoln Cemetery Society, the group that owns the cemetery, located at 600 58th St. S.
“I’m very proud of the students,” said Gray. “They really captured the essence of Lincoln Cemetery and did a great job honoring history. The tour plaques and book are beautiful. They put their heart and soul into both and it means a lot to us.”
The dedication of the second book, which is written for children, reads, “For those who rest in Lincoln Cemetery with stories heard and still to be heard. To those who answer the call to love one another.”
The book was written and illustrated by 11th- and 12th-grade students enrolled in a World Religions course offered through St. Petersburg College and taught by Isaac. It features a fifth grader who learns that Lincoln Cemetery contains St. Petersburg history, and that it is not just a scary place for Halloween, said Isaac.
“Many people across different races and cultures have been taught to be fearful of cemeteries,” said Isaac. “There are a lot of nice themes in the book that teach people how to think about and visit a cemetery while being respectful. It helps to dispel some of the fears and anxiety that people have. We hope that it continues to connect people to Lincoln Cemetery.”
The first 19 self-guided historical markers are being called the “yellow tour,” said Isaac. “It’s a way to identify the collection from future additions. It’s like sunshine and the feeling of the cemetery becoming light and beautiful again.”
Isaac’s students researched and wrote the narrative content for each marker while others crafted them in shop classes.
Electronic versions of the self-guided tour maps are also available to view or download on the society’s website lincolncemeterysociety.org.
To obtain a copy of either book, call the high school bookkeeper at 727-893-2780. The first book sells for $14.95 and the second is $5.99.
“Our ultimate goal within the next couple of years,” said Isaac, “would be to turn this into something that gets to the Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.”