Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia Repatriate Historic African American Gravestones
KING GEORGE COUNTY, VA (STL.News) Generations after gravestones were wrongly removed from a Washington, D.C., cemetery and dumped to control erosion on the Potomac River, Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser today joined descendants to begin the process of honoring their family members by returning the gravestones to a proper memorial site.
The story begins in 1859 at Columbian Harmony Cemetery, which stood for a century as Washington’s most prominent burial site for Americans of African descent. In the 1960s, the cemetery was moved to make room for commercial development, which in time would include the Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood Metro station. The remains were relocated to a memorial garden in Landover, Maryland. But in a dehumanizing act, most of the grave markers and monuments were sold for scrap or dumped for erosion-control rubble along the Potomac River.
Many of the grave markers were deposited in a two-mile stretch of King George County, Virginia, where Caledon State Park and the home of Senator Richard Stuart front the Potomac River. In 2016, as Senator Stuart walked along the river, he discovered the gravestones on the property he had just purchased.