Friends of Moses Hall, now in its third year of advocacy to protect and preserve the historic Morningstar Moses Cemetery and Hall in Cabin John, is launching a fundraising campaign now that it has 501(c)(3) status, allowing donors to receive a tax-deduction for their gifts.
The funds are needed to move forward with the development of a comprehensive conservation and restoration plan, which will enable the organization to apply for large grants. The phased restoration plan for the site will prioritize mitigation of erosion and providing safe access.
Since 2020, Friends of Moses Hall (FMH) has secured small grants totaling $5,000 from the James R. Trader Foundation, the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter, and the Janet Montgomery Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The Cabin John Citizens Association played a critical role in the group’s early efforts in 2020, by sponsoring cleanups and donating $2,000 to haul away massive amounts of debris.
Additionally, area law firms and the University of Maryland Clinical Law Program generously have provided pro bono legal services to FMH since 2020.
But the vast majority of funds received to date – more than $12,000 – came directly from individuals, descendants, and the founding members of FMH. These monies were used for bamboo remediation, insurance, a new website, clean-up and tour events, engineering consultants, and educational materials. Through its work, FMH has grown from a grassroots community effort focused on drawing attention to a historic African-American cemetery that the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) was ignoring in its Beltway expansion plans into a non-profit advocacy organization that has brought national attention to the site’s history, as well as its importance as a compelling example of racial injustice in highway infrastructure projects — past and present.
Along the way, FMH forced the SHA to acknowledge that the historic cemetery and Gibson Grove community were disturbed by earlier highway construction and to rethink their Beltway expansion plans. The pending federal lawsuit represents FMH’s continued advocacy at the highest level, but the organization is also committed in the long-term to the restoration and preservation of the Morningstar Moses Cemetery and Hall site.
FMH recently retained consulting civil engineers and planners to develop a phased restoration plan for the site. While a significant portion of the engineers’ work is being generously offered on a pro bono basis, there are some hard costs and subcontractor deliverables that FMH will need to cover.
FMH needs to raise at least $8,000 to move forward with a detailed topographical survey, which is essential to inform the site restoration plan. State highway officials have agreed to share some data from their 2021 ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey of the property so that FMH’s engineers ideally can pull it into the topographical survey to show the precise location of graves.
FMH’s most pressing needs will require professional services, including tree work and erosion control to protect graves.
Cabin Johners have been incredibly generous with their time, talent, and resources in support of FMH in the past. They have been enthusiastic participants in volunteer clean-ups at the Morningstar Moses site over the years, which typically occur in the spring and fall. FMH did not conduct a spring clean-up this year, but we will have work to do in the fall. Stay tuned and have your rakes on standby!
In the meantime, anyone willing to make a donation of any size to help the group move forward with the topographical survey and tree work at the Morningstar Moses site, please visit: https://www.friendsofmoseshall.org/support
If you have any questions about the mission and work of FMH, please email us at email@example.com.
By Charlotte Troup Leighton
CJCA Vice President