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Bull Run Marina

New sign at a Bull Run Marina explains history of buried enslaved people.

Bull Run Marina Map

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.

On Saturday, February 26, 2022, a new sign was unveiled at Bull Run Marina identifying the gravesites of five enslaved people. 

It’s been known for a long time that enslaved people were buried on the land, NOVA Parks historian Paul McCray told WTOP, but exactly where wasn’t confirmed until 2020.

“We brought in someone with ground penetrating radar to confirm the graves, and he did. He found five definite grave sites,” McCray said.

Each grave had fieldstones at the head and foot, although not all of those stones are visible today. The graves are all oriented so the footstones face east, and historians think they know the reason.

“(The enslaved) expected to be resurrected, and be facing east towards Africa when they stood up,” said McCray.

The land was owned by a farmer named John Woodyard from 1835 to 1856, and census records show he held one or two enslaved people at a time.

“He was a small farmer and that’s probably why there are only five burials in that graveyard,” McCray said.

“It is important that as we recall the travesties of slavery, we do not forget that we are talking about the lives of men, women, and children — mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, siblings,” said Karen Campblin, NAACP Fairfax County Chapter President.

“Lives torn away from their homeland to an unknown work of hardship. This is holy ground; let it serve as a reminder of our past but also a beacon that change is happening.”

The new sign will be officially dedicated at a ceremony on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Bull Run Marina. Wyatt, Campblin and Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano are scheduled to attend.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.