At the beginning of the Civil War, Federal troops secured Alexandria as Union territory. Former slaves, called contrabands, poured in to obtain protection from their former masters. Due to overcrowding, mortality rates were high. Authorities seized an undeveloped parcel of land on South Washington Street, and by March 1864, it had been opened as a cemetery for African Americans. Between 1864 and 1868, more than 1,700 contrabands and freedmen were buried there. For nearly eighty years, the cemetery lay undisturbed and was eventually forgotten. Rediscovered in 1996, it has now been preserved as a monument to the courage and sacrifice of those buried within. Author and researcher Char McCargo Bah recounts the stories of those men and women and the search for their descendants.
Sitting just south of the nation’s capital, Alexandria has a long and storied history.” “Still, little is known of Alexandria’s twentieth-century African American community. Experience the harrowing narratives of trials and triumph as Alexandria’s African Americans helped to shape not only their hometown but also the world around them. Rutherford Adkins became one of the first black fighter pilots as a Tuskegee Airman. Samuel Tucker, a twenty-six-year-old lawyer, organized and fought for Alexandria to share its wealth of knowledge with the African American community by opening its libraries to all colors and creeds. Discover a vibrant past that, through this record, will be remembered forever as Alexandria’s beacon of hope and light.”