Headstones From a Historic African American Cemetery in Washington D.C Found  Being Used for Erosion Control

 By Ryan Steal

The Associated Press reports that headstones from a historic African American cemetery in Washington, D.C., which were being used for erosion control, are being moved to Maryland’s National Harmony Memorial Park. This action will pay tribute to the 37,000 people who’ve been buried in the D.C. cemetery.

The Columbian Harmony Cemetery was founded in 1859 and “was the most prominent burial ground for African Americans in Washington, D.C., but it was relocated in the 1960s to make way for development, including the Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood Metro station”. While the bones were initially transported to National Harmony Memorial Park in Prince George’s County, officials have indicated that the “gravestones were sold or given away.”

While inspecting a newly purchased property in 2016, Virginia Senator Richard Stuart discovered tomb markers along a few miles on the bank of the King George County River. He consulted historians to learn more about the origins of the gravestones, and then worked with government officials to return and properly memorialize them.

Governors Larry Hogan (MD) and Ralph Northam (VA), as well as Mayor Muriel Bowser (DC), spoke at a ceremony on Monday to commemorate the relocation of the first 55 headstones.

“It’s a disgusting and heart-breaking chapter in our history,” said Gov. Hogan.

Gov. Northam echoed these sentiments, stating, “It’s really important for all of us to acknowledge past wrongs.”

On his end, Mayor Bowser said, “We are committed to righting that wrong.”

The original cemetery in Washington, D.C., was the final resting place of a number of prominent African Americans, including Elizabeth Keckly, a former slave who became a seamstress and trusted confidante of first lady Mary Todd Lincoln; Osborne Perry Anderson, the only African American survivor of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry; Mary Ann Shadd Cary, America’s first African American female newspaper editor; and Philip Reid, a foundry worker who helped build  the Statue of Freedom at the U.S. Capitol.

This will be a long-term project, with more gravestones being retrieved and relocated throughout the autumn. The state of Virginia has approved $4 million to build a waterfront memorial where the markers were located, as well as the retrieval and restoration of the headstones, according to Gov. Ralph Northam’s office.

About Carma Henry 21223 Articles
Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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