African American Civil War Descendants Project

The National Park Service and American University are beginning a new project, studying the local history of African American “contraband” communities, established during or after the Civil War. Contrabands -- slaves who had escaped or otherwise came north -- were drawn to the ring of forts surrounding Washington during the Civil War. There they were given basic necessities in exchange for work around the forts. They often set up small enclaves nearby.


A community of Civil War contrabands. Library of Congress.

The new study deals with eight of the forts, including Fort Bunker Hill in present-day Brookland. Here is a link to more information about the project and a video: African American Civil War Descendants ProjectThere is also a flyer that explains the project in a little more detail.

The project is being run by Sue Taylor of American University, and I encourage anyone descended from or with knowledge of these local communities to contact her. 

phone: 202-885-1830


mail: Sue Taylor, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology
           American University
           4400 Massachusetts Ave., NW 
           Washington, DC 20016 

© Robert Malesky 2017