The Friends of Freedmen's Cemetery

A group of freedmen at Cumberland Landing, Virginia
Freedmen, Cumberland Landing, Virginia. Photograph
by James F. Gibson, 1862. Library of Congress, Prints
and Photographs Division, LC-B811-0383.

Memorial Illumination Ceremony
Alexandria Freedmen's Cemetery

This spring, the City of Alexandria will host a re-dedication ceremony honoring the 1,800 African American men, women, and children buried at Alexandria Freedmen's Cemetery from 1864 to 1869. The Freedmen's Cemetery is located on the southwest corner of South Washington and Church streets and after 138 years of neglect is being restored as part of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project.

Freedmen were enslaved African Americans who fled north during the Civil War in pursuit of freedom. Thousands of Freedmen sought refuge behind Union lines in towns like Alexandria. They were housed in crowded barracks and shanty towns hastily constructed to accommodate their swelling numbers. For many, the Freedmen's Cemetery was their final resting place.

The re-dedication ceremony will include an illumination of 1,800 candle-lit bags, or luminaries, one for every person buried at the cemetery. Each will be labeled with an individual's name, age and date of death and, once decorated, will celebrate them for the first time since the cemetery was abandoned in 1869. Help remember and honor these heroic people by including your personal tribute on one of the luminaries.

Luminary decorating workshops will be held at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum on Saturday, March 24 and 31 and April 21, from 1 to 4 p.m. Once completed, the bags will be photographed, posted at, and included in the illumination event. The workshops are free and open to the public. For more information contact the Alexandria Archaeology Museum at 703.838.4399 or

The re-dedication ceremony is the beginning of a three-year process in which the City will conduct an archaeological investigation to ensure no graves will be disturbed, followed by the restoration of the cemetery and creation of a memorial park. The Alexandria Freedmen's Memorial Park is scheduled to open in 2010.

A marked grave
Excavated grave shaft #6. Once located, the graves will be
recorded but not excavated. They will be protected and
incorporated into the Memorial Park scheduled to open in 2010.


Drop by the Alexandria Archaeology Museum and decorate a luminary bag for the rededication of the Alexandria's Freedmen's Cemetery. The Museum is accepting donations of materials suitable for luminary decorating.

A luminary bag
Luminary bag decorated by Tamir Lucas, a 6th
grader from Francis C. Hammond, commemorating 7
year-old Willie Alfreds who died on June 29, 1865.

Become Part of History!

Participate in the Memorial Illumination Ceremony to Re-Dedicate Alexandria Freedmen's Cemetery.

Luminary decorating Workshops Schedule:

Saturday, March 24 & 31 and April 21, from 1 to 4 p.m.
Workshops are free and open to the public

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 Freedmenís Cemetery
638 North Alfred Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314

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.

April 29th, 2007