The names are brief, containing an ocean:
They belonged to James Willard.
Ben. Coffey. Bety (Girle). Cuggo. Cate. Bosso. Fillis. Cate (Girle). Jack.
They belonged to Tobias Leech.
Jacob. Elizabeth. The list continues. Henry. Mary. William. John. Jemineha.
Slaves all, and all owned in the 18th century by the wealthy and influential founding families of Trinity Church Oxford, a 300-year-old Episcopal parish at what is now Oxford and Longshore Avenues in the Northeast.
Tonight at 7 p.m., in the cool of the evening, a service will be held to honor these enslaved Africans, for the first time acknowledging by name their buried and unmarked presence in Trinity's ancient, leafy churchyard.
The Rev. Phyllis Taylor, Trinity rector for nearly a dozen years, and her congregation will then dedicate a simple gray marble stone recently placed at the back of the cemetery:
"Free at last," the memorial stone reads on one side. And on the other: "In memory of the slaves buried in unmarked graves in this churchyard. Erected 2007."
Taylor, a jovial and passionate white woman, said the fact of slavery in Trinity's past and the silence surrounding it had bothered her for "a long time."
And her desire to break through that silence dates from well before the current public debate over commemorating George Washington's slaves on Independence Mall, she said.
"We did this independently, but I guess maybe the whole culture is becoming more aware," Taylor said.
Last year, when churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania were asked to acknowledge the legal end of the Atlantic slave trade in 1808, Taylor thought it was about time to end the trade in silence at her own church.
"It's coming to terms with our illustrious ancestors and then realizing that they had slaves," she said yesterday, describing the motives and feelings behind the dedication. "It's hard for white people to deal with that - that the people who were our founders, and whom we're real proud of, had slaves. And they're both part of our church history, the same as they're part of our country's history and everything else."
The service and dedication - Frank Turner, the first African American bishop in the Episcopal diocese here, will deliver the sermon - has been generally welcomed by Trinity congregants, although not universally.
Taylor said some members of the congregation, which is almost entirely white, had expressed indifference, if not hostility.
"One thing I get from here is, 'My ancestors weren't here then, don't blame me. That was then, not now,' " said Taylor, who was born in Canada and is now a U.S. citizen.
"I say when I became American - because I wasn't American, either - that became part of my history, too," Taylor said. "That's the way I look at it. If you join this country, you adopt the good and the bad and the whole thing and you become an American. So in that respect I am responsible. I made myself responsible when I became an American."
Nadine Smith, a 19-year-old University of South Carolina student who attends Trinity when she is home from school, said she supported the commemoration.
"I think it's a good idea," she said. "I was helping go through the archives yesterday and I thought it was really interesting to find the records of slaves that people overlooked in the past and didn't give any credit to at all. We treated them so poorly."
Most of the names of the slaves - each will be mentioned individually during the dedication service - were gleaned from a volume of church records with a to-the-point, inked-in title: "Baptisms 1709-1790, Marriages 1743-1813, Minutes 1758-1770."
There, Taylor found references such as:
Baptized 2 Negro Children belonging to Dr. Moor 13 Sept 1747 Jacob & Elizabeth 1 year 3 mos and 3 mos.
William a Negro man belonging to Wm G. Griffiths, 3d March, 1750, aged 20 years. John, a Negro boy belonging to Griffith baptized same day, aged 13 years.
Unlike Trinity's baptism records for white children and young people, no family names were recorded. No parents were mentioned. Only owners.
"They were buried as nothing, like you would bury a dog," congregant Ruth Ricker, 84, said. "No names. No markers. Nothing. What this [commemoration] means is that they lived."
That the slave owners were also known for their generosity and influence is also part of the story, Taylor said.
"We swept it under the rug all these years," she said.
"In psychological terms, we're looking at our shadow - that's what we're looking at," she said. "You can't be a real, whole person until you look at your shadow - the part you're ashamed of and that you don't want anybody to know. To be a real, whole person, you have to look at both."