The Friends of Freedmen's Cemetery


Oh, freedom! Oh, freedom!
Oh, freedom for me.
And before I'll be a slave,
I'll be buried in my grave,
And go home to my Lord and be free.

A Line of Students
Young scholars at Prince Street Barracks, Alexandria, 1863-1864.
New York Public Library.

The Friends of Freedmen’s Cemetery was founded in 1997 for the purposes of preserving, commemorating and researching a little known, Civil War-era, African American burying ground in Old Town Alexandria. The Friends’ initial efforts concentrated on memorial ceremonies to honor and raise public awareness of Alexandria’s freed people. In 2000, we secured a Virginia state highway marker for the site. Until 2007 the cemetery was concealed beneath and disturbed by a mid-twentieth-century gas station and office building, but these have been razed for the creation of a public commemorative park. In a beautiful and moving ceremony on May 12, 2007 the cemetery was rededicated (see http://oha.alexandriava.gov/archaeology/ar-freedmens_rededication.html and http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/12/AR2007051201310.html).

Archaeologists recently completed an investigation to determine the location of extant burials. The work was undertaken to protect the graves and avoid future disturbance. Not only have scores of roughly east-west-oriented grave shafts been identified, but a 13,000-year-old projectile point was recently unearthed, suggesting the long use by American Indians of this location overlooking Great Hunting Creek. Although the graves themselves were not dug, the shafts revealed coffin shapes and some coffin hardware. There may have been a central east-west lane through the cemetery off Washington Street and north-south paths separating several rows of graves.

Design of the memorial park is proceeding, with the commencement of a design competition (see http://www3.alexandriava.gov/freedmens/).

For their efforts thus far toward the creation of the park, we would especially like to thank the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project, the City of Alexandria and Alexandria Archaeology.

This website honors Alexandria’s freed people. It is intended as a resource to present their stories and to connect them to their descendants and to Alexandria residents of today.

Board of Directors
Lillie Finklea, President
Louise Massoud
Char Bah
Shellyn McCaffrey
Tim Dennee

Webmaster
Tamara Mihailovic


Freedmen's Cemetery Historical Site Marker - E 109 Freedmen's Cemetery - Federal authorities established a cemetery here for newly freed African Americans during the Civil War. In January 1864, the military governor of Alexandria confiscated for use as a burying ground an abandoned pasture from a family with Confederate sympathies. About 1,700 freed people, including infants and black Union soldiers, were interred here before the last recorded burial in January 1869. Most of the deceased had resided in what is known as Old Town and in nearby rurual settlements. Despite mid-twentieth-century construction projects, many burials remain undisturbed. A list of those interred here has also survived.

Friends of Freedmen’s Cemetery
638 North Alfred Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
E-mail: freedmen@juno.com

Freedmen's Cemetery Logo - This logo was designed by Alexandria Archaeology Assistant City Archaeologist, Dr. Steven Shephard, in 2006. The beautifully executed final drawing was made by Alexandria Archaeology volunteer, Mr. Andrew Flora, who made a few modifications. At the center of the logo is a headboard of the design seen in historic photographs of the Alexandria National Cemetery, established at the north end of Wilkes Street in 1862. These grave markers were supplied by the U.S. Army Quartermaster Department in Alexandria and records state that this department also supplied the headboards and coffins for Freedmens Cemetery. The pine boards were whitewashed and the plot number, and presumably, the name of the deceased, and possibly the date of death, were painted in black on the headboard. The number 1864 in the logo represents the year that the cemetery was established. The black silhouette of the African American woman in the center of the board is meant to represent the people, the Freedmen, who were buried at the cemetery. Civilian men, women and many children were buried here, along with African American soldiers of the United States Colored Troops. The rays radiating from the top of the headboard are meant to represent the light of freedom, as well as the souls of the Freedmen ascending into heaven and their final reward. The F and C are for Freedmen's Cemetery. The surrounding broken chain wreath symbolizes the severed bonds of slavery which resulted from the American Civil War which transformed Alexandria and the nation.

February 5th, 2008