The Friends of Freedmen's Cemetery


For Immediate Release: Contact: Alexandria
May 24, 2007

Archaeologists Host Interpretive Tours of Rediscovered
Freedmen’s Cemetery in Alexandria

This summer Alexandria Archaeology will offer guided tours of the recently rediscovered Freedmen’s Cemetery in Old Town Alexandria. Tours are free and will be held at the site at South Washington and Church streets during the following dates and times:

Saturday, June 2, 2 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Saturday, July 14, 2 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Saturday, August 11, 2 p.m. – 3 p.m.

City archaeologists will give interpretive tours and on June 2, Field School students from The George Washington University will also be on hand to share and explain their discoveries. Space is limited and reservations can be made with Alexandria Archaeology at 703.838.4399.

Freedmen's Cemetery was established in 1864 after thousands of African Americans fled slavery and came to Union-occupied Alexandria seeking freedom. Without adequate shelter, food and medical care, they died at an alarming rate. The military authority overseeing Alexandria ordered that a cemetery be established, and over the next five years, approximately 1,800 people were buried there before the federal government abandoned the cemetery.

Over time the cemetery was forgotten, and in 1955, a gas station was built on the site. Local historians later discovered evidence of the cemetery through burial records and historical newspaper accounts, and when planning for the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge began, a citizen group, Friends of Freedmen's Cemetery, urged the City to research and preserve the site. A subsequent examination by archaeologists confirmed the existence of graves. The City recently acquired the property, demolished the buildings and rededicated the site as a cemetery.

Last week City archaeologists began their investigation to identify and preserve graves for the future creation of Alexandria Freedmen’s Memorial Park, due to open in 2010.

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

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.

June 5th, 2007