Excavations at the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery

Dr. Steven J. Shephard, a retired City archaeologist with Alexandria Archaeology, will provide a special look at one of Alexandria’s – and indeed Virginia’s – most significant burial grounds. From 1864 to 1869, the Contrabands and Freedmen’s Cemetery was the burial place for at least 1,800 African Americans seeking their freedom behind Union lines. Archaeologists conducted a series of four excavations in preparation for developing the property into a memorial park. The results of the excavations and documentary research indicate that there was an idea of what a “proper” coffin was like in mid-19th-century America. In his illustrated lecture, Dr. Shephard, one of the Freedmen’s Cemetery project researchers, will discuss the history of the cemetery, some results of the  excavations, and the idea of a “proper” coffin.