IPS students learn history on a field trip to Crown Hill Cemetery


The IPS excursion to Crown Hill Cemetery shares the accomplishments and triumphs of black heroes during the Civil War.

INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time since the pandemic, Indianapolis public school students were able to enjoy the “Spirit of Freedom” field trip, now in its 24th year, at Crown Hill Cemetery.

It shares the accomplishments and triumphs of black heroes during the Civil War.

Experiencing the story first hand is often the best way to learn.

At Crown Hill Cemetery, after a two-year pandemic break, 600 fifth and sixth year IPS students enjoyed a time trip.

“It’s a celebration! It’s what you see here today! It celebrates the African American men and women who fought and died in the Civil War. We call it ‘the spirit of the freedom,'” explained Dr. Pat Payne of the Office of Racial Equity. Director of IPS. “We bring our fifth and sixth graders here to enjoy history and maybe they learn this kind of history that still isn’t included in textbooks as it should be.”

Crown Hill is a perfect backdrop as over 200 Black Civil War soldiers are buried at the cemetery.

“It was a really big war and I didn’t know there would be so many coming from Indiana,” said fifth-grade student Harper Dennis. “I really enjoy learning about history and the 1800s.”

“There’s a certain part here that we’re going to look at about black people who fought in the war,” fifth-grader Leland Stone added. “We learned that primarily from the 54th Infantry.”

This is an interactive experience for students to relate to historical figures, with re-enactors representing Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Richard Gatling, Sarah Elizabeth Brown Cuffee and Harriet Tubman.

“It’s 10:45 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. In that short time, they’ll have spoken to Frederick Douglass. They’ll have spoken to Sojourner Truth,” Payne explained.

“We heard Harriet Tubman’s perspective,” Dennis said. “Parts of her experience when she was doing the trips. It was pretty cool.”

The children not only heard powerful speeches from the re-enactors, but they also learned about the powerful Gatling gun, invented during the Civil War.

“Are we ready?” asked the Gatling pageant to a crowd of students.

A resounding “yes”! was followed by a flurry of gunfire.

“I’m not going to lie, I jumped,” sixth-grader Christian Bradley said after the demonstration with his friends. “He was scared too!

The excursion is intended to introduce children to history, while helping them better understand the struggle for freedom during the Civil War.


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