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Woodlawn Cemetery, established in 1895, serves as the final resting place for a number of prominent Washingtonians. It is the successor to a number of earlier 19th-century burial grounds that no longer exist. The majority of interments at Woodlawn are the more than 6,000 individuals who were transferred and reinterred from Graceland Cemetery, a short-lived burial ground established in 1872 near Benning Road and H Street, NE. Others were transferred from the Colored Union Benevolent Association Burial Ground.

Woodlawn Cemetery was among the last of a group of cemeteries established in the 19th century: Harmoneon (Harmony) Cemetery (1828), the Female Union Band Cemetery (1842), the Union Burial Society of Georgetown Cemetery (1868), and the Mount Zion Cemetery (1879), all located in Northwest Washington. Among the well-known individuals buried at Woodlawn are Blanche K. Bruce, Mary P. Burrill, Will Marion Cook, John W. Cromwell, W. Bruce Evans, John R. Francis, John Mercer Langston, Jesse Lawson, Mary Meriwether, Daniel Murray, and Major Frederick Revels. The size and style of their headstones serve as final evidence of their prominence during life.

The Woodlawn Cemetery Perpetual Care Association has served as the cemetery's caretaker since 1972. The cemetery was listed on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites in 1991 and on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

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