- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2007

Alexandria, Va., will hold a rededication ceremony tonight to honor the 1,800 men, women and children buried at the Alexandria Freedmen’s Cemetery from 1864 to 1869.

The rededication ceremony will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. and will include an illumination of 1,800 candlelit bags, or luminaries, one for every person buried at the cemetery. The luminaries, each labeled with an individual’s name, age and date of death, will celebrate the lives of these forgotten people for the first time since the cemetery was abandoned in 1869.

The rededication ceremony is the beginning of a three-year process in which Alexandria will demolish modern buildings, conduct an archaeological investigation to ensure the protection of the graves and create the Alexandria Freedmen’s Memorial Park, scheduled to open in 2010.

The Freedmen’s Cemetery is located on the southwestern corner of South Washington and Church streets. It has languished for 138 years and been subjected to grading and construction.

Freedmen were enslaved blacks who fled north during the Civil War in pursuit of freedom. Thousands of freedmen sought refuge behind Union lines in towns such as Alexandria. They lived in crowded barracks and shantytowns hastily constructed to accommodate their swelling numbers. For many, Freedmen’s Cemetery was their final resting place.

For more information on the rededication ceremony, phone the Alexandria Archaeology Museum at 703/838-4399 or the Alexandria Black History Museum at 703/838-4356.

William Connery is a freelance writer living in Alexandria. He wrote an article on the Freedmen’s Cemetery that appeared on the Civil War page on June 11, 2005.

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