The Friends of Freedmen's Cemetery

Alfred Parry

The following short biography is drawn from the Special Report of the Commissioner of Education on the Improvement of Public Schools in the District of Columbia, 1871, Section C, "History of Schools for the Colored Population," Part I, pp. 283-284. This section of the report was authored by M.B. Goodwin.

Alfred H. Parry was born a slave in Alexandria in 1805… An attempt being made to separate the mother and child by sale, the parent seized her offspring in her desperation and threw it into the Potomac, from which it was with difficulty rescued alive. The mother soon afterwards purchased both her own freedom and that of her child, the latter for $50. [Alfred attended Rev. James H. Hanson's free colored Lancastrian school on South Washington Street, and when a mere boy began himself to teach in a small way.] Mr. Parry taught many years in Alexandria. At first he had only a small night-school, which gradually increased so much as to attract the attention of the mayor, Bernard Hooe, in 1837, who called Parry before him and declared his school to be an "unlawful assembly." In Alexandria the schools were subjected to annoyance and restraints under the provisions of the city ordinance prohibiting all assemblages, day or night, "under the pretence or pretext of a religious meeting, or for any amusement." It was this provision that Mayor Hooe read to Parry when called before him. Parry plead for his school on the ground of his well-known good character, and the mayor replied that his assent to such a school would not be given though he knew the teacher to be "as pure as the angel Gabriel." Parry, however, persisted, hired a white man to be present at his night-school, and the mayor, without assenting, endured the institution.

Parry soon opened a day-school, which was kept up through the severest period of the persecution which followed the Nat Turner insurrection in South Hampton county and the riots in Washington and other cities, from 1831 to 1835. Here he taught until he went to Washington, in 1843-the school-house last used by him being between Duke and Wolf[e] streets, on a hill, and known as "Mount Hope Academy." His scholars numbered from 75 to 100, composed of both sexes. Many slave children attended his school under written permits from their owners; "I am willing that my servant, A. B., should attend the school of Alfred H. Parry," being substantially the form of the permission which met the requisitions of the law. The owners paid the tuition. The excitement in the times of the riots does not seem to have inflamed the people of Alexandria as it did in Washington, though the colored schools and churches were all closed for a time. Mr. Parry's wife was born at Ravensworth [estate, Fairfax County, Virginia]. Her mother, Kitty Jones, was one of the Mount Vernon servants, belonging to Washington, who made her free before the birth of the daughter, and she was brought up in the family of Jonathan Butcher, a good Quaker of Alexandria. Parry now resides in Washington.

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.

July 5th, 2007