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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Selina Gray

 
 
Selina Gray Marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, August 30, 2008
1. Selina Gray Marker
Inscription. Selina Gray, the daughter of Leonard and Sallie Norris, was a second generation Arlington slave. For a number of years, Selina was the personal maid of Mrs. Robert E. Lee. By 1861, Salina had become the head housekeeper at Arlington. When Mrs. Lee abandoned her home in mid-May 1861, she left the household keys, symbolizing authority, responsibility and her trust in Selina Gray. Locked away inside Arlington were many of the "Washington treasures." These pieces were cherished family heirlooms that had once belonged to Mrs. Lee's great-grandmother, Martha Custis Washington and President George Washington.

The U.S. Army assumed control of Arlington on May 24, 1861. Later U.S. Army officers occupied the house and looting began. When Selina discovered some of the treasures had been stolen, she confronted the soldiers and ordered them "never to touch any of Miss Mary's things." Selina alerted General Irvin McDowell, commander of the Union troops, to the importance of the Washington heirlooms. The remaining pieces were sent to the Patent Office for safe-keeping. Through Selina's efforts, many of the Washington pieces were saved for posterity.

The Grays received their freedom in 1862 as specified in the 1857 will of George Washington Park Custis, Mrs. Lee's father. Eventually, the Gray family left Arlington to live in nearby
The South Slave Quarters Museum image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, August 30, 2008
2. The South Slave Quarters Museum
adjacent to Arlington House.
"Green Valley." Gray descendants still live in Arlington County, Virginia.

At the time of the Civil War, the south slave quarters served as the home of the Gray family. Thorton and Selina Norris Gray lived here with their eight children: Emma, Annice, Florence, Sarah, Ada, Selina, John and Harry. Most of the Grays worked as house slaves. During the years at Arlington, the Grays occupied the room at the west end of the quarters. Some of the Gray children slept in a small loft above the main room.

Years later, in the 1920s, two of the Gray daughters returned to Arlington House to assist the War Department with the restoration of the house. Emma and Sarah Gray provided historical details about the slaves quarters and the main house that proved invaluable to the restoration. According to Emma and Sarah Gray, the rest of the south slave quarters consisted of a smoke house and storerooms. To assist with restoration of the mansion's interior, they also made available several original furnishings from Arlington that their mother had received from Mrs. Lee. Plans are underway to completely restore the slave quarters. The National Park Service will undertake a Historic Structures Research project document architectural features and changes to this building over time. This report, combined with the oral history interviews conducted with former Arlington slaves in the
Interior Exhibit on Black Families associated with Arlington House image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, August 30, 2008
3. Interior Exhibit on Black Families associated with Arlington House
1920s, will lead to a more accurate restoration of the quarters.

[Photo captions:] Thorton Gray. Emma Gray Syphax. Sarah Gray Wilson. Northeastern View of South Slave Quarters.
 
Erected by National Park Service.
 
Location. This marker has been replaced by another marker nearby. 38° 52.86′ N, 77° 4.375′ W. Marker is in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, in Arlington County. Touch for map. This marker is located behind the Arlington House mansion (the Robert E. Lee Memorial), between Lee and Sherman Drives. It is mounted on the north side of the mansion's south slave quarters building which now contains impressive educational displays pertaining to Afro-Americans associated with the Arlington Estate and its 19th Century Freedman's Village. Marker is in this post office area: Fort Myer VA 22211, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this location. Guardian of a Nation's Heritage (here, next to this marker); The Kingdom of My Childhood (a few steps from this marker); Garden to Graves (within shouting distance of this marker); The Arlington Woodlands (within shouting distance of this marker); Arlington House, 1864 (was within shouting distance of this marker but has been reported missing. ); Pierre Charles L'Enfant (within shouting distance of this marker); Arlington Estate, 1860 (within shouting distance of this marker); A Garden Sustains (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Arlington National Cemetery.
 
More about this marker. This marker was replaced by a new one named Guardian of a Nation's Heritage (see nearby markers).
 
Also see . . .
1. The Arlington House Slave Quarters. (Submitted on September 1, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
2. Arlington Black Heritage Museum. (Submitted on September 1, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
 
Additional keywords. Reconstruction, Freedman's Village
 
Categories. African AmericansWar, US Civil
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 1, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 2,444 times since then and 109 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on September 1, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Christopher Busta-Peck was the editor who published this page.
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