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Possible African-American Burials Unearthed in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Yarrow MamoutWASHINGTON, D.C.—According to a DCist report, workers renovating the basement of a Georgetown townhouse discovered human remains thought to date to the early nineteenth century. City archaeologist Ruth Trocolli said the site may have been part of an unrecorded cemetery on the block, since other human remains have been recovered during construction projects in the past. Jerry McCoy of the D.C. Public Library said one of the graves might belong to Yarrow Mamout, who is also known as “Old Yarrow” from portraits painted by James Alexander Simpson and Charles Willson Peale. Mamout, a Muslim, was kidnapped in West Africa, enslaved in Georgetown, and won his freedom at the age of 60, when he became a successful investor. Mamout lived around the corner from the recently discovered burial site, but is known to have been interred in the garden where he prayed, which was located a few yards away from his home. “We don’t know where any of the black people in early Georgetown were buried,” added historian James H. Johnston. “There are all these other questions that this could help answer about the history of black Georgetown.” To read about excavations at one of the first communities built by newly freed African-Americans, go to "Letter from Virginia: Free Before Emancipation."

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