The City of Alexandria invites the public to participate in the fifth anniversary of the dedication of the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial (1001 S. Washington St.), September 13-15. The weekend celebration will feature a lecture by local Contraband historian Char McCargo Bah; a wreath laying at the site; a luncheon to honor descendant families with a keynote address by National Park Service Superintendent of Fort Monroe National Monument, Terry E. Brown; a curated bus tour of Alexandria's African American heritage sites and an evening candlelight vigil at the memorial. Several events will be free and open to the public. A full schedule of events is listed on the Contrabands & Freedmen Cemetery Memorial 5th Anniversary page. The memorial honors the hundreds of African Americans who died in Alexandria during the Civil War. Many were refugees from bondage in Maryland and Virginia, who were seeking protection under Union soldiers. In the early years of the Civil War, slaves who had escaped to freedom in areas under Union control were called contrabands. Originating from the term "contraband of war," this protected their refugee status and prevented their return to the Confederacy. The site of the memorial, Freedmen's Cemetery, was established by Union military authorities in 1864 in response to an overwhelming health and humanitarian crisis in Alexandria. More than 1,700 freed and formerly enslaved African Americans were buried in the cemetery during and just after the war. The cemetery fell into disrepair and nearly faded from memory before being restored and rededicated in 2007. The Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial opened in 2014 on the site of the cemetery, to honor the memory of the Freedmen; the hardships they faced and their contributions to Alexandria.
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