Remembering the Forgotten: preserving Loudoun County’s African American cemeteries

Virginia

The Thomas Balch Library in Leesburg has recorded about 200 cemeteries in Loudoun County. The library isn’t in charge of preserving those cemeteries, and in some cases, Loudoun County isn’t either.

A cemetery in Gleedsville, Virginia has seen better days. It was a burial ground for freed slaves, and the generations following them. Loudoun County resident Ellen Thaxton, also a descendant of some of the men and women buried there, says the cemetery was being cared for by a local man until he passed away. Now, original headstones are entirely missing.

The Loudoun Freedom Center, a nonprofit organization founded by NAACP President Pastor Michelle Thomas, has agreed to take care of the cemetery. It has cared for two other cemeteries; one off of Belmont Ridge Road and the other off of Sycolin Road. 

The Freedom Foundation is currently battling Peterson Companies, the developer of Compass Creek, a future multi-use shopping center by the Leesburg Airport.

Peterson Companies has requested to exhume the remains of what it believes to be African Americans buried on its property. The Loudoun County Circuit Court is hearing its case, and the Freedom Foundation has been close by. 

“We hope they’ll be preserved,” said Fred Snowden, the Freedom Center’s director of education. “But if they’re exhumed and moved we would like to be involved in helping to place them in an appropriate location.”

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