Prince William Community Groups Advocate for Preservation of Black Cemeteries

The property holds the graves of those who were enslaved

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Community groups in Prince William County will come together on Saturday to warn about a threat to two African American cemeteries.

The graveyard, located in the historic area of Thoroughfare, is said to hold graves of those who were enslaved. Now, someone outside the family who claims to own the property plans to turn it into a development.

Frank Washington, whose ancestors are buried in the cemetery, recently discovered that the property holds the graves of those who were enslaved. He said that Cloverland Plantation once stood next door to the cemetery. A brewery now operates there.  

“What this has grown into is a passion to really show the respect … that I feel the ones who came before me and paved the way for me,” Washington said. “Let them rest in peace and show them the dignity that a lot of them didn’t receive in life.”

The realtor who represents the property owner said that two acres that include the cemetery are up for sale and there are interested buyers.

The road to the cemetery, which is owned by the brewery, has been blocked off. Washington can’t get answers about why. News4 reached out to the brewery but has not received an answer.

“The fact they feel like they have the right to block us off from our heritage and history — it’s a hard pill to swallow,” Washington said.

There are also worries of a second family cemetery nearby. Surveyor stakes went up around it.

Washington and others with ties to the area have formed the Coalition to Save Historic Thoroughfare to try to make sure the cemeteries and other historic sites in the area are preserved.

“I would like to have some kind of stone put on each grave that we find, even if we can’t put a name on it just so they know they haven’t been forgotten,” Washington said. “That’s my ultimate goal.”

An archeologist will go to the cemetery later in April to help find what other history might be hidden in hallowed ground.

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