Mt. Zion Cemetery Resurrection

A visitor walks through Georgetown’s Mt. Zion Cemetery.
Photo by Paul Simkin.
A visitor walks through Georgetown’s Mt. Zion Cemetery.

Last issue’s cover story about the desecration of Georgetown’s Mt. Zion Cemetery, near the corner of Q and 27th Streets, hit a collective nerve. Many readers sent in letters offering their thoughts.

There was a common theme to all who reached out to us: something needs to be done now and they want to help do it.

Many were shocked that the remains of as many as 4,000 slaves are buried in unmarked mass graves in the small burial ground. They were greatly concerned that so little has so far been done to bring honor to the African American dead who lived, suffered and died as property of their white masters.

As a slight correction to what we wrote in the article, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (not the Historic Preservation Office) has pledged to match Mt. Zion’s $5,000 contribution, bringing a total of $10,000 to the restoration process. While that is a wonderful start, those funds won’t go far. Much more money and loving attention will be needed to bring the site to a condition that the community can be proud of.

Time is an unceasing tyrant. The burial ground is sliding into further decay and what few remnants of the past are still visible will likely be unsalvageable before too many more winters pass.

The will to change is clear. Now a commitment to follow through is crucial for real change to happen. The community as a whole needs to take advantage of the present spirit and not allow these first efforts to become bogged down.

The memory of these Georgetown citizens has been done a great disservice. The dead should be honored, their lives be remembered and the disgrace of their servitude serve as a lesson in history. In the words of Abraham Lincoln: “Let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds.”

The Dumbarton House Headquarters and Museum has reached out and offered to become a point of contact for these efforts and spearhead the movement with staff for clean up of the property, a location for preservation meetings, fundraising opportunities and historical research. You can contact Karen Daly at to get involved.

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Wed, 28 Jun 2017 20:31:06 -0400

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