Sale of Md. land, former site of African American burial site, is on hold

A Montgomery County, Maryland, judge has temporarily blocked the $51 million sale of land that includes a historic African American cemetery and the Westwood Tower Apartments in Bethesda, Maryland.

Part of the Moses Macedonia African Cemetery, according to the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition, is beneath the parking lot of the building, which it said never should have been built back in the 1960s.

The coalition filed a lawsuit against the Montgomery County Housing Commission on Aug. 12, claiming it violated state law.

The temporary restraint forbids the sale of the land until after a preliminary injunction on the matter is held Sept. 27.

Montgomery County Judge Karla Smith writes in her order, “Many of the individuals buried at Moses African Cemetery were freed slaves or people who had worked on one or more of the four plantations in the River Road area of Montgomery County prior to the Civil War.”

The land was used in the early 1900s for a burial ground but was sold in the 1950s to construct the 212-apartment complex, Montgomery County Media reported.

Montgomery County’s Housing Opportunities Commission owns the property and apartment building. The commission uses the rental income to cover costs of the agency.

Rev. Dr. Segun Adebayo, Macedonia Baptist Church pastor and a plaintiff in the suit, said in a statement that the restraining order is “another small but crucial first step toward racial justice for the living and the dead in Montgomery County.”

Community advocates have been fighting against the sale of the property for nearly four years.

Kyle Cooper

Anchor and reporter Kyle Cooper, has been with WTOP since 1992. Over those 25 years Kyle has worked as a street reporter, editor and anchor. Prior to WTOP Kyle worked at several radio stations in Indiana, and at the Indianapolis Star Newspaper.

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