Land donation to African American burial ground in jeopardy amid power line dispute in Loudoun

LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va., — March 1 2024 –Pastor Michelle Thomas has big dreams for the Loudoun Freedom Center, an educational nonprofit that preserves, protects, and conducts educational programming on the site of an historic burial ground for enslaved people in Ashburn.

Thomas visits the African American Burial Ground for the Enslaved at Belmont, off of Route 7, nearly every day. She leads tours for schoolchildren and other community members, offering a window into the lives of the enslaved people forced to labor on the nearby Belmont Plantation, much of which is now a golf course. She tells the story of enslaved people who buried their loved ones in the dead of night and taught each other to read in secret in a windowless one-room building nearby. (Literacy was banned for enslaved Black people in Virginia.)

Thomas says she also visits the property to clear her head — and to mourn her son Fitz, the first free Black person buried there after he drowned in a tragic accident in 2020.

“It means everything to me, because I understand this history, I understand the uniqueness of this shared history. I understand the struggle of ancestors who were forced to labor in the beautiful fields that we now golf in … I know the history of people that want to be free,” Thomas told reporters at a press conference at the burial ground on Thursday. “This is our opportunity.”

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