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Chevy Chase Community Association


Tracing the Burial Sites of Early Blacks in Chevy Chase DC

  • February 07, 2024
  • 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

We invite you to take a deep dive into local history on Feb. 7 by being our guest at a Zoom program that traces the burial sites of the earliest Black residents of Chevy Chase DC. Given the dearth of historical records available on the lives of African Americans during slavery and its aftermath, this revealing pathway tells much about the connections they made in life.

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The free, hour-long program features historians Mark Auslander of Mount Holyoke College and Lisa Fager of Black Georgetown Foundation. They will share their recent research tracing burial records of individuals who had roots in Chevy Chase DC's Black enclaves and plantations to one of the oldest African American cemeteries in the Nation’s Capital, the Mount Zion-Female Union Band Society Cemetery in Georgetown. 


Hosted by Historic Chevy Chase DC, the Webinar builds on the years of advocacy work of our organization to amplify the voices of free and formerly enslaved people who lived here long before the streetcar suburb of Chevy Chase DC was created. The research by historians Auslander and Fager further illuminates the connections these Black communities made across the Capitol area that helped individuals survive and thrive in a time of immense hardship from before the Civil War to the Jim Crow era. 

These include persons enslaved on the Belt plantation, in the vicinity of present-day Chevy Chase Circle, including those who were transferred to various Belt land holdings in Prince George's and Calvert counties, and who, in some instances, escaped back to the District of Columbia in the late slavery period.

They also trace Mount Zion’s connections to free Black families who farmed on Pointer-Harris-Dorsey properties, the present day location of Lafayette Elementary School and Lafayette-Pointer Park on Broad Branch Road.  

Auslander, a Ph.D. sociocultural anthropologist, teaches anthropology at Mount Holyoke College in Western Massachusetts. His  award-winning  book, The Accidental Slaveowner: Revisiting a Myth of Race and Finding an American Family (University of Georgia Press, 2011), rethinks American racial politics under slavery and post-slavery through structuralist approaches to mythology and kinship. He has also written on the role of enslaved persons in the construction of the Smithsonian and the making of the lands that became Sidwell Friends and the National Cathedral campuses.

Auslander grew up on Chevy Chase Parkway and attended Lafayette Elementary School. Although he has long worked on histories of enslavement, liberation, and race in D.C., only recently did he realize that he came of age on land that once were inhabited by persons enslaved by the Belt family from the 18th century until the Civil War era.  In dialogue with descendant families and HCCDC members, he has been reconstructing histories of slavery and freedom-making in Chevy Chase DC.

Lisa Fager is the executive director of Black Georgetown Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reclaiming the past and preserving the future of the historic Mt. Zion and Female Union Band Society cemeteries in Georgetown – active from 1808 to 1950 and historically African American. She leads the efforts to protect and restore this American treasure, and to resurrect the wealth of stories and historical artifacts that reflect the rich legacy of Black Georgetown.

Their talk on Feb. 7 will include reflections on the role of Mt Zion-FUBS in current restorative justice struggles in the shadow of painful histories of enslavement, land appropriation, and the early 20th century dismemberment of Black bodies in the name of “scientific” research.


Chevy Chase Community Association

P.O. Box 42210 

Washington, DC  20015

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