Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Montgomery County misses deadline to release bone fragments to Bethesda cemetery advocates

Montgomery County has ignored a second deadline to relinquish over 200 bone fragments excavated from a site directly adjacent to the Moses African Cemetery in Bethesda to cemetery advocates and the descendant community for testing. Attorneys for the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition had set a deadline of August 15, 2023 for the County, a developer excavating the site for a self-storage project, and a contractor to release the bone fragments from their current location in a Gainesville, Virginia warehouse. Advocates, and descendants of those buried in the cemetery, want to confirm if any of the excavated fragments are indeed human remains. They have sought assistance from County Executive Marc Elrich and Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin (D - 8th District) in this effort, to no avail so far.

This was the second time BACC had set a deadline. The first was on Juneteenth earlier this summer. This latest deadline was the first submitted by the organization's attorneys. BACC is now asking the public to write to Raskin and Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen (D), to ask them to facilitate a federal intervention in the matter. 

Moses African Cemetery was desecrated in the late 1960s during the construction of Westwood Tower, and remains hidden under two parking lots astride the Willett Branch stream behind the apartment tower. The current standoff over who will possess the potential human remains is eerily reminiscent of the horrific and illegal use of African-American remains in medical experimentation during the 1800s and 1900s, and the retention of many of those remains in American institutional collections to this day.

"Montgomery County is engaged in grave robbing to signal its contempt for Black people and to line the pockets of developers," BACC President Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo said in a statement Tuesday evening. "Not only is this sick but clearly criminal. How can a County that prides itself on being 'progressive' allow Black bodies to be trafficked from Moses African Cemetery in Bethesda, Maryland (represented by Congressman Jamie Raskin) to a warehouse owned by an US govenment contractor - without any legal consequences? We call upon the Department of Justice (FBI) to initiate a federal investigation leading to prosecution. No one is above the law. What is happening in Bethesda is a hate crime that must be punished to the full extent of the law."


  1. Johnny on the spot to muck up River Road area by Westbard but you can’t make this happen? Disgusting and Erlich to blame!

  2. This should read "unofficial/random date requested by parties with an agenda" since it is not official or binding in any way.