Georgetown Headstones – White / Black

Within the District of Columbia is a neighborhood with homes and commercial businesses, known a Georgetown, founded in 1751, when it was part of the colony of Maryland. A tobacco trading post with an inspection house for tobacco was built there and a small community developed. The inspection house was built by George Gordon who had land there along with George Beall, so the name ‘Georgetown’ came into being.

Cemeteries were added over the years, one for white people (Oak Hill) and one for black people (Mount Zion and Female Union Band Society). The two cemeteries were next to each other with just a dirt road and a fence between them.

Besides burials at both, the Mount Zion cemetery had a low brick structure along the side of a hill which was used to keep bodies in the winter before they were buried in the spring. That same brick structure may have also served as part of the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves.

It is estimated there are some 1,500 people buried at Mount Zion, about 1.5 acres in size, founded in 1808. The Female Union Band Society, founded in 1842 (for black women), alongside, about 1.5 acres also. Oak Hill Cemetery was opened in the early 1850s. Over the late 1800s and into the 20th century the population declined of blacks so by the 21st century, only 5% of Georgetown’s residents are black.

With the last burial in Mount Zion in 1950, and lack of care, the headstones have been in disrepair. It has become part in 2012 of the D. C. Preservation League and money is being raised to save the Mount Zion cemetery.

This is just one example of the disrepair of many older black cemeteries across the nation. During the 21st century, many have started to be repaired and cleaned up. Records of who was buried there are being compiled, so it could prove to be a resource if you believe a relative is buried there.

Photos: Mount Zion – headstones in piles; those working to restore it in 1975; the brick structure at Mount Zion; the entrance to Oak Hill and gravesites.

Related Blogs:

Resources for African-American Genealogy


Graves and Cemeteries

< Return To Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.