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Elizabeth Keckly Burial Site
On May 26, 2010, a ceremony was held at National Harmony Memorial Park in Landover, Maryland (MD), unveiling a memorial headstone marking the grave of Elizabeth Keckly. While Mrs. Keckly is best known as the seamstress/confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln and author of Behind the Scenes, her largely forgotten work on behalf of the newly emancipated slaves deserves recognition. As the Civil War progressed, many of these former bondsmen, also known as contrabands, sought refuge in the nation's capital, often arriving with little more than the clothing on their backs.
Some mistakenly believed the government would feed and clothe them as their former masters had done. Unfortunately, the government was slow to adopt a policy for helping the newly arrived freedmen, who were in desperate need of basic necessities. Elizabeth Keckly, realizing their plight, devoted herself to raising funds and collecting donations for their benefit. In 1862, she organized the Contraband Relief Association (CRA) at Union Bethel AME Church. Mrs. Keckly founded and served as the first president of the group of forty volunteers.
The CRA and similar societies helped expose the need for more government involvement in caring for the contrabands and helped set the standard for providing aid and sustenance to the former slaves.
Currently not open to public.
National Harmony Memorial Park, 7101 Sheriff Road, Largo, Prince George's, 20792
National Park Unit:
Location Type: Site
People/Organizations Associated with the site: Contraband
UGRR Operatives: Elizabeth Keckly