There are many things to take away from all the events and books and coverage of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. The cost in human lives, the brave soldiers, the politics and issues, the effects on homes and farms, are each important.
One thing that surfaced for me, are the actions enslaved black Americans took, such as self-emancipation. During the war, thousands of contraband and escapees took a courageous and often deadly journey from their places of captivity to Alexandria. They needed no document from Washington. The North Star and their thirst for freedom were their guiding lights. Frederick Douglass had shown them the passage could be taken. Their actions and the escape of others spoke volumes about what the war had become.
The City of Alexandria will pause this weekend to honor and remember these forgotten Americans. 1,800 or so died here and were buried on a plot of land overlooking Great Hunting Creek and the Potomac River.
The City is calling the program, “The Journey to Be Free.” The new memorial has been open since mid-summer, but the City will officially dedicate the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial this Saturday, September 6, at 10 a.m. Descendants are arriving this week from all over the country.
The Alexandria website has details of lectures, walking tours and the dedication events. This promises to be a very emotional set of days, with candlelight vigils, church bell ringings, descendants finding family on the Wall of Rememberence and families coming together.
As pointed out by Char Bah, Alexandria’s professional genealogist and someone who performed an heroic level of research to find descendants,
Rarely do you get an opportunity to play a part in history. This week there are many events taking place in Alexandria to celebrate the “Homecoming of the Descendants of the Alexandria Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery (Cemetery).”
On Saturday, September 6, 2014, the Descendants will have a Dedication Ceremony at Washington and Church Streets in Alexandria, VA. At 10:00 a.m. to 10:05 a.m., several Churches in Alexandria will be ringing their bells in honor of the Descendants’ ancestors. If you are unable to attend this event, please take five minutes of your time and ring a bell from wherever you are in honor of the Descendants’ ancestors and your ancestors.