By Thomas A. Foster By Thomas A. Foster February 2 at 8:00 AM
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Should the armpit of a 1,000-acre acreage be called for above aboriginal adult Nancy Reagan? Several associates of Congress may anticipate so, but any renaming of Gravelly Point Esplanade in Arlington should account those already apprenticed there.
The Abode Natural Resources Committee voted aftermost ages to rename the accepted armpit on the banks of the Potomac the Nancy Reagan Memorial Park. Legislation will now arch to the abounding House, breadth it is accepted to pass.
The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, who, according to WTOP, said allotment the esplanade for Reagan would be a “fitting tribute” for a “beloved aboriginal lady.” All seven Republicans apery Virginia in the Abode of Representatives accept accustomed the renaming.
But one wonders if they accept any abstraction of the history of that location, a history that includes enslavement that to date has yet to be accustomed and appropriately memorialized.
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Few apperceive that Reagan National Airport is amid on the armpit of a plantation. If one goes to the airport today, one can acquisition the charcoal of the acreage house. Its foundation and the fractional bank of an outbuilding, acceptable the kitchen, sit aloft a baby acropolis amid parking garages A and B.
With accepted signage at the airport it’s easier to acquisition breadth to acquirement a brace of Spanx than to locate this important actual site, but the acropolis is on the appropriate as one active to the rental car area.
But alike if you accomplish it there, the Abingdon you will apprentice about is a bewitched acreage afterwards slaves. Advice at the armpit covers alone the white families who lived there. It was additionally already endemic by the Alexander ancestors for whom Alexandria Virginia is named. It was afterwards endemic by George Washington’s stepson and was the birthplace of his step-granddaughter Nelly Custis.
Information at the airport’s website about the history of the armpit analogously lacks any acknowledgment of slavery.
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One charge adventure to the somewhat alien affectation breadth in the aboriginal terminal to ascertain a video presentation and affectation cases. There, one will acquisition advice about the history of the armpit and some of the items begin afterwards archaeological digs. But alike there alone a clue to enslavement exists for the agog observer: a atom of Colono Ware with a beat that explains it was “probably fabricated and acclimated by disciplinarian for soups and stews.” It adds, somewhat apologetically: “Unfortunately, few actual annal abide to advice historians and archaeologists accept bondservant activity on Abingdon Plantation.”
Short, anachronous videos analogously focus on the white families who lived there and the development of the site, afresh with no acknowledgment of bullwork or apprenticed people. Echoing “Gone with the Wind,” the presentation that covers the aboriginal period, the aeon of enslavement, ends with “The pastoral mural faded” to characterize back the armpit became industrial.
It will booty some time and accomplishment to amend that site, if the airport is willing. Renaming Gravelly Point Esplanade would be a admirable befalling to absorb a cogitating space, abroad from the airport. It would be added calmly attainable and eventually could accommodate markers and added advice so that the lives of those apprenticed could be appropriately memorialized and honored.
Data from archaeological letters additionally shows that the acreage abode stood for centuries. At one point, it apparently had a ample academic and accessory landscape. Annal acknowledge aperitive clues about who lived and affected there. A 1782 appraisal of the acreage showed 73 apprenticed bodies on site. The breadth of Abingdon Acreage and Arlington Acreage had 297 apprenticed bodies listed in the 1800 Census and 353 in 1810.
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In 1802 George Washington Parke Custis affiliated 57 apprenticed bodies with the agreement that they abide at Abingdon or a sister acreage Arlington. An 1850 account listed 22 apprenticed bodies — by far the best admired assets of the estate. Personal acreage was admired at $1,459.99 and apprenticed bodies at added than three times that amount, $5,035.00. In today’s dollars: more than $150,000.
Congress should do the appropriate affair and instead of arty a name from on-high should booty this befalling to assignment with the bounded association to acquisition a way to best approach the enslavement of ancestors at this site. Gravelly Point Esplanade is an ideal breadth at which to do this.
Members of Congress charge not anguish that Nancy Reagan will be forgotten.
Thomas A. Foster is accessory administrator of the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of history at Howard University.
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