Moses Morningstar Cemetery, with graves dating to the 1890s, was separated from its church when the Beltway was built.
House Bill 1099 was filed in the 2021 session of the Maryland General Assembly by Delegate Al Carr of Montgomery County. Building on the prior efforts of Delegate Pam Queen, the bill was intended to assist Marylanders who are concerned about African American burial sites in their communities.
HB 1099 directed two actions:
- To study issues facing historic Black cemeteries, including conditions and needs, how other jurisdictions are protecting and managing these fragile historic resources, and how any proposed initiative would be funded. This study would be conducted in one year by appropriate organizations, some named and others generally described.
- To create a fund that will provide grants to qualified applicants. Individuals and organizations would be eligible to apply to “identify, preserve, restore, protect, maintain, or commemorate graves, monuments, or markers at historic African American cemeteries.”
Just down Route 1 in D.C., a small plaque on a concrete column near the exit of the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station is all that’s left of the historic Columbian Harmony Cemetery, once the city’s most prominent African-American cemetery.
But the plaque does not tell the whole story.
“Many distinguished black citizens including civil war veterans were buried in this cemetery,” it reads. “These bodies now rest in the new National Harmony Memorial Park Cemetery in Maryland.”
The Metro station, which is now surrounded by apartments and shops, is gaining new attention for a bar opening soon in a renovated Metro car parked on site.
But the tragic backstory of the land beneath the Metro station is not as widely known.
The Trader Foundation for Maryland Burial Sites is seeking candidates for open positions on its Board of Directors. Those wishing to apply should email email@example.com. The Board meets twice each year to receive, review, and respond to grant applications for cemetery projects throughout the State of Maryland. The position requires that you assess each application and evaluate the merits of providing funding to accomplish its goal. Comments and questions should be sent to the email address above.
BETHESDA, Md.—Residents here used the occasion of Juneteenth celebrations, for the first time an official national holiday, to step up an ongoing struggle to stop the desecration of an African cemetery.
The Moses Cemetery is a place where freed Africans are buried, part of a tightly-knit Black enclave formed in the wake of the abolition of slavery in Maryland.
A coalition of activists had to be formed to save the cemetery after the arrival in 2017 of a company determined to build a self-storage facility on the site.
Several hundred members and supporters of the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition (BACC), Macedonia Baptist Church, Claudia Jones School for Political Education, and speakers from local anti-racist organizations celebrated Juneteenth at the Moses African Cemetery on Saturday. The coalition, led by Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, seeks to stop the desecration of the Cemetery and memorialize the freed Africans buried there.
In 2017, the Montgomery County Planning Board gave self-storage developer 1784 Capital Holdings permission to build a facility on land legally designated “Parcels 242 and 191,” less than 100 yards from the historic cemetery. In July 2017, researchers from the Ottery Group investigated local “death notices and funeral announcements” from the early 20th century and found documentation that Moses Cemetery “received new internments” between 1911 and 1944.