Plans for the Capital Beltway expansion in Maryland are being altered in order to protect a historic Black cemetery located in Cabin John, reports the Washington Post. The Morningstar Tabernacle No. 88 Order of Moses Cemetery and Hall was recently included in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places.
Julie Schablitsky, chief archaeologist at the Maryland Department of Transportation, has been leading a team that is using ground-penetrating radar to identify the locations of unmarked graves. That effort revealed that graves are likely closer to the Beltway than had been known, putting them in the path of the expansion. State officials hadn’t previously said what they would do if grave sites were found outside of previously known burial areas.
Founded around 1885, the Hall was located next to post-Emancipation settlement Gibson Grove. The community’s church and the burial grounds were separated by the construction of I-495 during the 1960s, which Schablitsky acknowledges was a mistake. “It’s our responsibility now to repair that damage and come in and do the right thing,” she told the Post. The cemetery contains hundreds of graves dating back to the 19th century, and most of them are not marked by headstones.