The St. James AME Zion Church Community Excavations

We are pleased to announce plans for the fourth and FINAL SEASON of community excavations at St. James AME Zion Church in Ithaca NY! Community members age 12-17 are invited to join us to learn about archaeology, the story of this historic church, and its role in the Underground Railroad. Information packets are available for interested families. Caregivers can either submit an online application or complete and print a participant application form. Hard copy applications should be mailed to Adam Smith, 261 McGraw Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca NY 14853.

Beginning in 2021, CIAMS faculty in collaboration with Gerard Aching (Cornell Africana) and Reverend Terrance King (St. James AME Zion Church) launched a new community engaged initiative to explore the history of the St. James community. The St. James AME Zion church building was constructed during the late 1830s and is today the oldest AME Zion church in the world still in active use. The building is known to have been the most important Underground Railroad station in Ithaca during the 1840s and 1850s. Harriett Tubman is known to have spent time at the Church and Frederick Douglass also visited.  

As in previous seasons, our 2024 excavation team will include community members, middle and high school kids, and Cornell students and faculty. Our goal is to use archaeology as a means to help the Church and wider community tell empowering stories of St. James's past. We hope to inspire Cornell students and Ithaca kids to learn more about their community and its rich history.

We encourage you to take the CyArk tour of the church and watch a video about the church made by Historic Ithaca.