ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WJLA) - The Alexandria Freedmen's Cemetery was discovered in 2007, during the construction of the new Wilson Bridge. Now, a memorial is being built there to honor more than 1,800 African-Americans who were buried there between 1864 and 1869.
The city of Alexandria bought the land and tore down the gas station and office building that it added over the years, and now the cemetery is scheduled to open early next year. So far, experts have identified 631 grave sites -- including some right here under this sidewalk.
"Washington Street at the time would have been just a little path - it did not go over Hunting Creek to the south, and as a result, the burial ground probably extended right into the middle of South Washington Street," explained Fran Bromberg, Acting City Archaeologist for the City of Alexandria.
A historic record documents the 1,800 burials of freed blacks and slaves who escaped from the South to help the union. They were called "contraband" of war.
"We have the name of the person, their age, where they died and usually what they died of," said Audrey Davis with the Alexandria Black History Museum.
Alexandria has hired a genealogist to find the descendants of those buried in Freedmen's Cemetery. In the first two weeks, Char Bah found four descendents.
One of them is Carolyn McCrae, who until now had no idea how her ancestors escaped slavery, or that three of them were buried here.
Now shes committed to making sure that legacy lives on