The Revival of Holy Rood Cemetery



A new sign at the gate of Holy Rood Cemetery, installed in 2015.



Holy Trinity Church and Georgetown University began discussions to arrive at a plan for the restoration of Holy Rood Cemetery in 2010. The discussions, which took eight years, were given added impetus by overlapping with Georgetown University’s reckoning––spurred by a series of articles in The Hoya––with its historic involvement in slavery. A Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, “to study and make recommendations to help guide the University’s ongoing work related to slavery and its legacies,” was convened in 2015. Its report, one year later, included a recommendation that, in light of the fact that the cemetery was “the final resting place of many enslaved and free blacks of Georgetown,” the University should “fulfill its responsibilities to Holy Rood Cemetery and guarantee its good upkeep.”

In 2018, Holy Trinity, Georgetown, and the Archdiocese of Washington agreed on a plan to restore and maintain Holy Rood Cemetery. As a part of the agreement, Georgetown University granted a perpetual easement to allow Holy Trinity Church to build a columbarium, with niches for the remains of Holy Trinity parishioners, Georgetown University alumni, faculty and staff, those who have ancestors interred at Holy Rood, and others. A portion of the proceeds from niche sales would be set aside in an endowment to ensure the cemetery is properly maintained in perpetuity.

The blessing of the columbarium took place on All Souls’ Day, November 2, 2019.




Jacqueline L. Salmon, “‘It Shows a Disrespect for the Dead’; Condition of Holy Rood Cemetery Upsets Family Members of Deceased,” Washington Post, August 28, 2008, p. DE1.

Matthew Quallen, “Georgetown, Financed by Slave Trading,” The Hoya, September 26, 2014; “Jesuit Ideals Facing the Slave Trade,” The Hoya, January 16, 2015; “Slavery Inextricably Tied To Georgetown’s Growth,” October 23, 2015.

Robert Emmett Curran, The Bicentennial History of Georgetown University: From Academy to University 1789-1889(1993), pp.119-120.

Report of the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation to the President of Georgetown University, June 3, 2016, p. 22.

Facing Georgetown’s History, A Reader on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, Adam Rothman and Elsa Barron Mendoza, eds. (2021), p. 240.



See also:


Holy Rood Cemetery in the Press

Burial Grounds of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Georgetown

Holy Rood and Georgetown University

Slave Burials in Holy Rood Cemetery




Carlton Fletcher

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