Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Booknotes: Section 27 and Freedman's Village in Arlington National Cemetery

New Arrival:
Section 27 and Freedman's Village in Arlington National Cemetery: The African American History of America's Most Hallowed Ground by Ric Murphy and Tim Stephens (McFarland, 2020).

Section 27 and Freedman's Village in Arlington National Cemetery "explains how the grounds of Arlington House, formerly the home of Robert E. Lee and a plantation of the enslaved, became a military camp for Federal troops, a freedmen's village and farm, and America's most important burial ground. 

During the Civil War, the property served as a pauper's cemetery for men too poor to be returned to their families, and some of the very first war dead to be buried there include over 1,500 men who served in the United States Colored Troops. More than 3,800 former slaves are interred in section 27, the property's original cemetery."

Beginning in 1888, the Freedman's Village residents were given small compensation by the federal government and ordered to leave the grounds, which were then converted into burial sections 3,4,8, and 18. According to the book, the main road of the historical Freedman's Village roughly corresponds to "(t)oday's section of Grant Drive, Clayton Drive, and Jessup Drive..." 

In support of the text are numerous photographs, figures, tables, and maps. The book has an extensive appendix section, which includes a an Arlington timeline, an 1858 slave inventory of the Arlington estate, the December 1862 emancipation document of the estate's slave population signed by Custis will executor R.E. Lee, employment records, and a walking tour of African American history at Arlington Cemetery. As noted on the cover, the book is also the recent winner of the Phillis Wheatley Book Award.

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