In Arlington—it’s a fitting end to Black History Month—a local cemetery is on track to become one of two historic, black burial grounds in the county.
But, the condition of the property is at risk.
Each day, Reverend Sonja Oliver learns more about the humble cemetery.
“Who you are is only as good as people's memories are,” Oliver said.
Bordering a parking lot and a busy highway, the 125 year-old Calloway United Methodist Cemetery is the final resting place to 100 African Americans—half in unmarked graves.
“We all need to remember who we are and not just who we are now but who we have been,” Oliver said.
Through research, the church found three former slaves in the cemetery. Oliver also noticed a detail in her papers—information helping her find, for the first time, the grave of a black union soldier, Hesakiah Dorsey.
The Civil War private rests feet from Lee Highway—a road named for the man Dorsey fought to defeat.
Stories like Dorsey's are exactly why this church is so devoted to learning more about their cemetery. With it, they're learning who is buried here and finding out who they are.
But this history is in jeopardy.
“These grounds very much need to be preserved they need to be kept here undisturbed,” Oliver said.
The soil is eroding and trash litters the graves.
"I think it's really important that that history doesn't get lost,” said Cynthia Liccese-Torres, an Arlington Historic Preservation Planner.
County historians are working with the church to protect these hallowed grounds with an historical marker.
"It's just an amazing piece of history that will now never go unnoticed,” Torres said.
If approved by the county, the cemetery will join 31 Arlington historic sites—but will still remain one of a kind.
“This represents the future—this represents who we are now. This is a very important effort for us,” Oliver said.
The Arlington county planning commission voted Monday to make the cemetery a ''historic'' site. The County board will vote on the issue at their March 10 meeting.