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Mt. Pleasant Plains Cemetery at Walter Pierce Park

Since 2005, descendants and others have gathered annually at Walter Pierce Park in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the 8,428 African Americans buried there between 1870 and 1890, when it was Mt. Pleasant Plains Cemetery. In the 20th Century, headstones and some (but not all) graves were removed, and the land was sold. It became a city park in 1978.

In 2005, citizen-activists stopped a planned construction project in the park, citing potential harm to unmarked graves. To identify and protect the graves, a non-invasive archaeological survey was led by Howard University anthropologist Mark Mack. Team historians documented the names of those buried at Mt. Pleasant Plains, revealing some who risked their lives seeking freedom.

The cemetery was owned by the Colored Union Benevolent Association, whose members included Underground Railroad operatives William Bush and John H. Brent. Buried in the cemetery were: Richard and Ephraim Edmonson, who in 1848 tried to escape slavery on the schooner Pearl, Washington's largest Underground Railroad operation;Luke Carter, a Pearl operative and ally of abolitionist William Chaplin;Dennis Magruder, who escaped slavery in 1814 during the British invasion;William Tolson, Edward Marks, and Lewis Ferguson, who fled slavery in 1863 to join the Union Army;and Dabney and Lucy Ann Walker, who in 1862 left enslavement by crossing into Union lines in Virginia.

Visitor Information: Currently open to public.

Location: Between Calvert Street and Adams Mill Road, NW, Rock Creek and the National Zoo, Walter Pierce Park, Washington, 20009

National Park Unit: No

Ownership: DC Department of Parks & Recreation

Location Type: Site