The Friends of Freedmen's Cemetery

Lewis Lee, runaway, 1858 or 1859

From William Still, The Underground Rail Road, (William Still, 1871), pp. 537-538.

Slavery brought about many radical changes, some in one way and some in another. Lewis Lee was entirely too white for practical purposes. They tried to get him to content himself under the yoke, but he could not see the point. A man by the name of William Watkins, living near Fairfax, Virginia, claimed Lewis, having come by his title through marriage. Title or no title, Lewis thought that he would not serve him for nothing, and that he had been hoodwinked already a great while longer than he should have allowed himself to be. Watkins had managed to keep him in the dark and doing hard work on the no-pay system up to the age of twenty-five. In Lewis' opinion, it was now time to "strike out on his own hook"; he took his last look of Watkins (he was a tall, slim fellow, a farmer, and a hard drinker), and made the first step in the direction of the North. He was sure that he was about as white as anybody else, and that he had as good a right to pass for white as the white folks, so he decided to do so with a high head and a fearless front. Instead of skulking in the woods, in thickets and swamps, under cover of the darkness, he would boldly approach a hotel and call for accommodations, as any other southern gentleman. He had a little money, and he soon discovered that his color was perfectly orthodox. He said that he was "treated first-rate in Washington and Baltimore"; he could recommend both of these cities. But destitute of education, and coming among strangers, he was conscious that the shreds of slavery were still to be seen upon him. He had, moreover, no intention of disowning his origin when once he could feel safe in assuming his true status. So as he was in need of friends and material aid, he sought out the Vigilance Committee, and on close examination they had every reason to believe his story throughout, and gave him the usual benefit.

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