24. 37th and O Street

37th and O Street NW
Photo by Bob Rives

Anne Marie Becraft Hall, Georgetown University

In 1805, Anne Marie (Maria) Becraft was born to William and Sarah Daniels Becraft, one of seven children. Her father served as a steward at the Union Hotel and tavern while her grandmother found employment at the John Carroll household of New Carrollton, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence and cousin to Archbishop John Carroll, the founder of Georgetown College. Mary Billings, an English white woman, ran the second school Becraft attended. Known for her pious character, at the age of 15, Maria Becraft founded one of the first schools for African American girls in Georgetown on Dumbarton Street near the Convent of the Visitation in 1820. Her students ranged from about age 8 to 14. The school operated until 1831, when she moved to Baltimore to join the Oblate Sister of Providence, the first African American religious order and took the name Sister Mary Aloysius.​ ​She became one of the first African American nuns. According to Knecht’s 2007 book, ​Oblate Sisters of Providence: A Pictorial History​, the habits the sisters wore comprised a “full-pleated, long-sleeved black dress trimmed with a white collar. A crucifix was attached to the area over the heart.”​ ​Becraft is remembered as a woman of the rarest sweetness and exaltation of Christian life, graceful and attractive in person and manners, gifted, well educated, and wholly devoted to doing good,” according to an 1870 special report submitted to the U.S. Congress on the “Condition and Improvement of Public Schools in the District of Columbia.”​ Anne Marie Becraft Hall, formerly Remembrance Hall, and once named after ​Rev. William McSherry, S.J., a Jesuit at Georgetown College involved with the 1838 sale of 272 enslaved individuals, was befittingly renamed in her honor. According to the Oblate Sisters’ archival records, Becraft was with the order only two-and-a-half years before she died at the age of 28 in December 1833 from a “chest malady of which she felt the first attack when she was 15 years of age.”​ ​Both her parents and two sisters are buried in Holy Rood Cemetery. Maria Becraft’s burial grounds, Baltimore Old Cathedral Cemetery.

(Source: Georgetown University)