Woodlawn Cemetery is situated on a gently sloping plateau and is defined by hills, winding avenues, and diverse vegetation, as well as the panoramic views it offers of the District of Columbia's metropolitan area. Douglass Avenue, the main roadway, winds around a hillside which was once defined by perennial foliage, lawns and modest grave markers.
Woodlawn Cemetery was established in 1895 to provide new burial grounds in the southeastern region of Washington, DC. Five prominent white businessmen from different sections of Washington had the foresight to establish a much-needed cemetery for citizens of the District of Columbia and the surrounding communities.
As it was not created for any specific group or denomination, Woodlawn became an interracial, intercultural, non-sectarian cemetery in an era of increasing Jim Crow segregation. Since its incorporation, Woodlawn Cemetery has interred the remains of persons who had made a great impact upon the community.
Woodlawn Cemetery houses the graves of notable African Americans, including Senator Blanche K. Bruce, the US Senate's second African American member (he served from 1875 to 1881), and Representative John Mercer Langston, who served in the US House of Representatives from 1889 to 1891. It is also the site of an estimated 20,000 pauper's graves, as well as many burials re-interred from earlier cemeteries, dating from 1798.
In recent years, the cemetery has suffered from a lack of maintenance.
DC Inventory: June 19, 1991
National Register: December 20, 1996