African American cemetery

Groups of people sit in circles of chairs viewing pieces of paper.
"A 'Saying Their Names' Event at Walter Pierce Park prior to 2018

Gretchen Roberts Shorter

Quick Facts

Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits

The land that became Walter Pierce Park was once the location of two cemeteries. One, The Friends' Burying Ground, was a Quaker cemetery which operated between 1807 and 1890. The other was much larger and was known as the Mt. Pleasant Plains Cemetery. This cemetery was owned and operated between 1870 and 1890 by the Colored Union Benevolent Association.

After 1890 some of the land was purchased and folded into what would become the Smithsonian Zoological Park and Rock Creek Park. In the 1950s the remaining acreage was slated for high-rise apartment buildings by developers. Though the land was graded and prepared for the construction, the project was abandoned. Residents of the Adams Morgan neighborhood petitioned the city to have the remaining acres turned into a park in the 1980s.

Though residents had been told that all of the graves had been relocated and removed from the land, there was evidence that this was not the case. In 2005, more intense assessments were done on the park land and intact burials were discovered. Non-invasive means--like ground penetrating radar studies--were conducted to locate the graves. Documentary research revealed the names of those buried at the site. 

Additional information can be found from the grassroots group conducting the research: The Walter Pierce Park Cemeteries | Commemorating the African American and Quaker Cemeteries at Walter Pierce Park in Washington, DC

Rock Creek Park

Last updated: February 4, 2021