The Friends of Freedmen's Cemetery

Free Blacks and Slaveholders in the Alexandria
Personal Property Tax Assessments of 1787-1790

The tax assessments of 1787 through 1790 have at least two things in common. First, they are the earliest extant property tax records for the town of Alexandria. Second, they share the same tabular format, identifying free African Americans and containing a count of slaves in households with white heads of household. Following 1790, there is a five-year gap in the records, for several years after which African Americans are not recorded distinctly from whites.

Details about the slaveowners extraneous to the present purpose (such as numbers of white members of the household and personal property such as carriages) have been excluded. Thus, the tabular format of the original document has been simplified, and the remaining information may speak for itself. Keep in mind that some owners may have owned slaves who resided in other places, such as Washington, D.C. or farms in northern Virginia.

While most African Americans in town are not identified by name, this source has a value similar to the slave schedules of the federal censuses of 1850 and 1860. For one thing, they can provide statistical information. Also, used in conjunction with other sources, such as wills, deeds of sale and trust, manumissions, etc., these personal property records can help trace ancestors (particularly if the researcher can trace his or her ancestor to an individual owner and finds that that owner possesses only one slave).

For whatever reason, the assessments certainly under-represent the free black population of the time, containing only two single, adult black males (of course, free black children would not be listed under any circumstances, and free black women very seldom). The number of African Americans in white households was not necessarily exclusive of free African Americans. Particularly in this urban area, many free blacks were hired as servants, laborers or artisans, and many probably lived in white households, hence their "disappearance." Discrepancies in name spellings between the years' lists have been eliminating, favoring a common spelling for each name throughout all, based on a preferred or most common spelling appearing within the documents or from other sources. Tim Dennee





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