Richard and Lisa Stuart were walking beside the Potomac River when they noticed an odd rock in the riprap on the water’s edge…“I think that’s a headstone,” Richard Stuart remembers saying to his wife that day four years ago.
Once they started looking, they saw another. And another. With horror, Stuart discovered that a two-mile stretch of erosion control along the riverfront farm he had just purchased was full of grave markers.
A state senator, Stuart enlisted Virginia historians to figure out where they came from. The trail led upriver to the nation’s capital, and illuminated a dark truth about how Washington became the city it is today: The headstones were from Columbian Harmony Cemetery, a historic African American burial ground that was dug up and relocated in 1960 to make way for commercial development.
A prominent Black sculptor, Black Civil War veterans…37,000 Black citizens of the United States of America were removed from their final resting place to make way for a Metro Station, shops and condos. The symbols of their last stop were treated as scrap, ballast for a suburban river bank.