National Harmony Memorial Park
|Established||July 1, 1962|
|Location||Landover, Maryland, U.S.|
|Owned by||Stewart Enterprises, Inc.|
|Size||142 acres (570,000 m2)|
|Find a Grave||National Harmony Memorial Park|
|The Political Graveyard||National Harmony Memorial Park|
National Harmony Memorial Park is a private, secular cemetery located at 7101 Sheriff Road in Landover, Maryland, in the United States. Although racially integrated, most of the individuals interred there are African American. In 1960, the 37,000 graves of Columbian Harmony Cemetery in Washington, D.C., were transferred to National Harmony Memorial Park's Columbian Harmony section. In 1966, about 2,000 graves from Payne's Cemetery in D.C. were transferred to National Harmony Memorial Park as well.
History of the cemetery
Washington businessman Louis H. Bell owned 107.5-acre (435,000 m2) Forest Lawn Cemetery on Sheriff Road in Landover, Maryland. Bell also owned Prince George's Nurseries, and planned to add an additional 65 acres (260,000 m2) of nursery land to the cemetery. In nearby Washington, D.C., Columbian Harmony Cemetery nearing its capacity. The lack of burials and a perpetual care endowment left the cemetery $3,000 in debt every year by 1956.
In 1957, Bell offered the owners of Columbian Harmony Cemetery a 25 percent stake in the new cemetery and offered to pay all relocation costs in exchange for the cemetery's property in D.C. Although Columbian Harmony rejected this offer, negotiations continued. Bell eventually agreed to also establish a perpetual care fund, designate a 30-acre (120,000 m2) section of the cemetery as the "Harmony Section", and allowed the Columbian Harmony Cemetery's board to appoint half the members of the new board of directors of the new cemetery association.
Beginning in May 1960, approximately 37,000 graves were moved to National Harmony Memorial Park. The District of Columbia Department of Health had to draft and win approval of a whole new set of regulations to govern the relocations. A D.C. district court agreed to issue a single exhumation order, than review thousands of cases. All the heirs of those buried at Columbia Harmony Cemetery were contacted and their permission to move the graves secured. More than 100 workers exhumed, recrated in new coffins, moved, and reburied the dead. The re-interments were completed on November 17, 1960. It was the largest cemetery move in the nation's capital, and cost $1 million.
Unfortunately, the relocation agreement did not cover the existing memorials and monuments. According to the Maryland Historical Trust, none of the original grave markers were retained. Furthermore, most of the remains at Columbian Harmony Cemetery were transferred and reburied without identifying which person was being reburied.
In 1966, about 2,000 graves were transferred from Payne's Cemetery to National Harmony Memorial Park. Payne's Cemetery, located at 4640 Benning Road SE, was a historic cemetery founded in 1851, when most cemeteries in the city were segregated. It was exclusively for African Americans. Payne's Cemetery was declared abandoned by the city in the summer of 1966, and the graves moved by September 1967.
Stewart Enterprises, a company based in New Orleans, Louisiana, purchased National Harmony Memorial Park in 1998. Stewart Enterprises agreed to retain most of the 1959 agreement with Columbian Harmony Cemetery, although Columbian Harmony was no longer permitted to name members to the cemetery's board of directors.
Many nationally and locally famous people are interred at National Harmony Memorial Park. Many of their remains were transferred from Columbian Harmony Cemetery or Payne's Cemetery. Among those buried at National Harmony Memorial Park who were not originally buried elsewhere are:
- Francine Barker (1947–2005), singer who was the original Peaches in the vocal group Peaches & Herb
- Alvin Childress (1907–1986), actor who played Amos Jones on the Amos 'n' Andy television series
- Henrietta Vinton Davis (1860–1941), actress and civil rights activist
- Christian Fleetwood (1840–1914), Medal of Honor recipient
- William Henry Harrison Hart (1857–1934), civil rights attorney
- Thomas R. Hawkins (1840–1870), Medal of Honor recipient
- Henry Lincoln Johnson (1870–1925), recorder of deeds for Washington, D.C.
- Elizabeth Keckley (1818–1907), seamstress to Mary Todd Lincoln and civil rights activist
- William J. "Billy" Mitchell (1931–2002), former singer with The Clovers
- Henry Vinton Plummer (1844–1905), first African-American chaplain in the U.S. Army (originally interred at family plot in Bladensburg, Maryland)
- Philip Reid (c. 1820–1892), foundryman who oversaw the casting of the Statue of Freedom
- Hilyard Robinson (1899–1986), modernist architect and Howard University professor
- Alfred Kiger Savoy (1883–1964), educator and Assistant Superintendent for Colored Elementary Schools, District of Columbia Public Schools, 1932 to 1954
- Billy Stewart (1937–1970), scat-singing R&B and soul artist
- "Harmony Memorial Park." Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form. Maryland Historical Trust. Maryland Department of Planning. March 9, 2009. Capsule Summary, p. 72-045. Accessed 2012-10-28.
- "Harmony Memorial Park." Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form. Maryland Historical Trust. Maryland Department of Planning. March 9, 2009. Item 8, p. 3. Accessed 2012-10-28.
- Sluby and Wormley, p. 39.
- Sluby and Wormley, p. 45.
- "Workers Start to Clear 100-Year-Old Cemetery." Washington Post. May 24, 1960.
- Sluby and Wormley, p. 49.
- "Old District Graveyard's Moving Set." Washington Post. September 1, 1959.
- Valentine, Paul W. "Firm Would 'Rezone,' Clear Cemetery." Washington Post. July 8, 1966.
- H.D. Woodson High School opened in 1973 on a portion of the former Payne's Cemetery site in 1973, and Fletcher-Johnson Middle School on the rest of the site in 1978. See: Gately, Blair. "Fletcher-Johnson School Dedicated." Washington Post. April 20, 1978.
- Wilson 2016, p. 42.
- Wilson 2016, p. 134.
- Harris, Hamil R.; Smith, Leef (May 27, 1997). "On Memorial Day, Soldiers and Citizens Honor Sacrifices of Those Who Fought for Freedom". The Washington Post. p. B12.
- Skalski, Liz (June 3, 2010). "A Hole in the Historical Fabric, Stitched Back Together". The Washington Post. p. T18.
- Wilson 2016, p. 520.
- Ryan, Leigh (March–April 2005). "Army Board Grants Relief to Former Prince George's County Slave" (PDF). Prince George's County Historical Society News and Notes: 2–4. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
- Morello, Carol (April 16, 2014). "Slave who helped build Capitol's Statue of Freedom honored with historical marker". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
- "In Memoriam". The Washington Post. July 3, 1986. p. D6.
- "A. Kiger Savoy Dies; D.C. School Official". The Evening Star. January 21, 1964. p. 24.
- Wilson 2016, p. 716.
- Sluby, Sr. Paul E. and Wormley, Stanton Lawrence. History of the Columbian Harmony Society and of Harmony Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Rev ed. Washington, D.C.: The Society, 2001.
- Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company. ISBN 9781476625997.