- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 15, 2019

A Boy Scout raised funds to install a new sign at the forgotten Douglass Memorial Cemetery in Alexandria to honor the legacy of the former slaves and freedmen buried there.

Griffin Burchard, 16, said it was important to bring recognition to the Douglass Memorial Cemetery by cleaning it up and adding more informative signs at the site. He said he is still looking to find a sponsor to maintain the cemetery as a part of his Eagle Scout project.

His project is part of the city’s effort to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the commonwealth’s first enslaved Africans.

“The people buried at Douglass Cemetery played an important role in the building of Alexandria and they shouldn’t be forgotten,” Griffin said.

Griffin and his troop, Troop 4077, dedicated the new sign Thursday at the cemetery, where members of the community and city officials gathered to watch the ceremony.

“It’s very inspiring that these young men took it upon themselves to properly preserve this place and offer it dignity,” said Jamil Fletcher, a gifts officer at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Rosanne Hynes, who has lived for 20 years in an apartment building that overlooks the cemetery, said that over the years she has seen trees die in the graveyard and people come to mow the lawn, but it is not enough to maintain it.

“This place is loaded” with people every day walking their dogs said Ms. Hynes, adding that the cemetery is a part of the community.

Griffin stumbled upon the Douglass Memorial Cemetery by accident when his troop arrived to clean up debris at the neighboring Alexandria National Cemetery a couple years ago.

The national cemetery already had hired a contractor to do the cleaning. The Scouts, wanting to accomplish some community service, walked a few hundred feet away to what appeared to be an abandoned cemetery, where they picked up debris and raked leaves.

After doing some research, Griffin learned that the cemetery was named for famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass and that former slaves and freedmen were buried there.

“Recognizing Douglass’ impact now reminds us all why his name and memory are forever connected to this final resting place for slaves, freedmen and women and children of color here in Alexandria, my community,” Griffin said.

The cemetery was established in 1896; before that, it was called Spring Garden and George Washington was known to picnic there, Griffin said.

The cemetery’s only previous sign bore the name of the grave site. The new signs will have more information about Douglass and the people buried there.

Griffin did yardwork for his neighbors to raise $400 to pay for the project.

Griffin has lived in Alexandria for all his life, and attends St. Anselm’s Abbey School in Washington, D.C.

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