Although best known as a military burial ground, Arlington National Cemetery also has important connections to the history of slavery and emancipation in the era of the Civil War (1861-1865) and Reconstruction (1865-1877). This historic site includes the former location of Freedman’s Village, a community for previously enslaved people. This page provides a brief introduction to this complex and significant story. For more information, explore our Education Program module, "African American History at Arlington National Cemetery."
Arlington National Cemetery was established during the American Civil War on land that had previously been a plantation operated with the labor of enslaved African Americans. Today, Arlington House—the original estate—is run by the National Park Service. Read more about the cemetery’s early history here. Even before the Army established a military cemetery on the Arlington property, part of the land housed a Freedman’s Village, one of many created during the Civil War.
These villages were temporary settlements established by the federal government for formerly enslaved people—essentially refugee camps for men, women and children. The Freedman’s Village on the Arlington property evolved into a unique and thriving community with schools, hospitals, churches and social services. While intended to be temporary, the community remained on the land from 1863 until 1900, and it had a lasting legacy.
The Arlington Freedman’s Village connects Arlington National Cemetery to the national history of slavery and emancipation. It forms a significant episode in the cemetery’s early years and remains rich with stories to be told.