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ArlingtonHistorical Society to detail life of Arlington House savior

Historical Society to detail life of Arlington House savior

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The Arlington Historical Society will host a program on “Selina Gray: Her Life and Legacy” on Thursday, April 14 at 7 p.m. at the Reinsch Library on the main campus of Marymount University.

The program also will be streamed online via Zoom.

Historian John McNair will discuss the life and legacy of Gray (1823-1907), who while enslaved at the Arlington House plantation at the start of the Civil War protected and preserved mementos that once belonged to George Washington, and whose family went on to become community leaders in Arlington.

When the Lee family, which owned Arlington House (and, by extension, Gray as well), departed in 1861, Mary Anna Custis Lee (the wife of Robert E. Lee) gave Gray the keys to the mansion and designated her as the caretaker of the main house for the duration of their absence.


Gray was able to ensure that items related to the Custis family and those of the Washingtons (relations of Mary Anna Custis Lee) were not ransacked when Union troops occupied the site at the start of the war.

Ironically, Gray and her family were not freed from enslavement by the occupying federal forces, but rather gained their freedom in 1862 under the terms of the will of George Washington Parke Custis, who decreed that all those enslaved on the plantation be freed no later than five years after his (1857) death. After the war, family members moved to the Green Valley neighborhood of Arlington.

The program is free. For information, see the Website at www.arlingtonhistoricalsociety.org.

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