In 1929, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association placed a commemorative marker noting the site of the 200-year old slave cemetery. We believe this marker to be the earliest of its kind on a historic plantation. Despite this oﬃcial recognition, the burial ground lay unattended in dense underbrush for years.
In the early 1980s, a group of citizens began a concerted effort to honor the enslaved people of Mount Vernon. In 1982, a reporter from The Washington Post broadly publicized evidence of the forgotten slave cemetery. By 1983, these efforts resulted in action when the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association dedicated a new memorial, which was designed by students attending the architecture school at Howard University. The Association, in partnership with Black Women United For Action, now holds an annual ceremony at this spot in tribute to the generations of enslaved people who lived and worked here.
There is no record of the number or identities of those enslaved people interred in the cemetery. William Lee, who died many years after he was freed in 1799, is thought to be buried here. Mount Vernon was inherited by George Washington’s nephew, Bushrod Washington. One of his former slaves, West Ford, may be buried at this site. After receiving his freedom in about 1805, Ford established a free black community at Gum Springs, just north of Mount Vernon.
In 2014, Mount Vernon launched a project to thoroughly document the locations of individual burials at the cemetery. The goal of this multi-year survey is to commemorate the lives of those free and enslaved individuals who lived and died at Mount Vernon by creating a map showing the exact location of individual grave sites. No human remains will be disturbed. slave memorial