Restoration of Mount Zion Cemetery—“African-Americans were not just slaves in Georgetown"
The Georgetown neighborhood of what is now Washington, DC was founded as a port town 40 years before the nation’s capital was formed. Located on the north bank of the Potomac River just below the fall line at Great Falls, the town quickly became a successful business and mercantile center. Throughout its history even after being incorporated into the nation’s capital, it remained economically successful throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
Little known of Georgetown’s history, however, is the role of African Americans in the city’s business, civic, and religious life. Mount Zion Cemetery, founded in 1808 by Dumbarton United Methodist Church, initially received burials of both blacks and whites, but in 1849, after most new white burials were shifted to nearby Oak Hill Cemetery, Mount Zion United Methodist Church, the oldest African American church in Georgetown, leased the east end of the cemetery and subsequently the Female Union Band Society purchased the west end to continue using the cemetery for burials of free blacks.
The cemetery, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has fallen into disrepair—a common fate of many historically black cemeteries—but the DC Government recently included $200,000 in its annual budget for its restoration. (Photo of Mount Zion Cemetery in 2008 by AgnosticPreachersKid, shared here under CC BY-SA 3.0).
By Grace Bird
The Georgetown Dish
June 29, 2017