The α- and β-globin loci harbor developmentally expressed genes, which are silenced throughout post-natal life. Reactivation of these genes may offer therapeutic approaches for the hemoglobinopathies, the most common single gene disorders. Here, we address mechanisms regulating the embryonically expressed α-like globin, termed ζ-globin. We show that in embryonic erythroid cells, the ζ-gene lies within a ~65 kb sub-TAD (topologically associating domain) of open, acetylated chromatin and interacts with the α-globin super-enhancer. By contrast, in adult erythroid cells, the ζ-gene is packaged within a small (~10 kb) sub-domain of hypoacetylated, facultative heterochromatin within the acetylated sub-TAD and that it no longer interacts with its enhancers. The ζ-gene can be partially re-activated by acetylation and inhibition of histone de-acetylases. In addition to suggesting therapies for severe α-thalassemia, these findings illustrate the general principles by which reactivation of developmental genes may rescue abnormalities arising from mutations in their adult paralogues.