Opinion — 08 July 2010
Out of the attic

In the mid-1960s, Southland Corporation opened several new 7-Eleven convenience stores in Alexandria. Store No. 55 opened in 1965 at the corner of West Glebe Road and Commonwealth Avenue, but it closed down five years later after a violent incident there led to civil unrest.

On May 29, 1970, a white store employee shot and killed a black teenager inside the store, and claimed the young man had pulled a knife on him. Police arrested the employee and charged him with murder that night but he was soon released on bond.

A crowd gathered around the store and groups of people began expressing their anger by throwing rocks at nearby businesses and damaging cars. Vandals broke windows and set fires throughout the night. Five police officers were injured, and at least six people were arrested.

For the next three nights, during a time when race relations in the city were already strained, the unrest continued. Store No. 55 seen boarded up in this photo and other 7-Elevens were targeted, but fire bombs also damaged other businesses throughout Alexandria. City officials enacted emergency measures that banned the sale of guns, certain knives and gasoline in containers. Within the week, the disturbances subsided.

In mid-June, police stated the store employee admitted planting his own knife near the victims body. Later that year, his trial ended in a hung jury. He later pleaded guilty to manslaughter and served less than a year in prison before being paroled. Store No. 55 never reopened, and the building became home to at least two churches. In the early 1970s, the Peoples Choice AME Zion Church moved in, and today the Freedom Way Missionary Baptist Church occupies the old 7-Eleven.

Out of the Attic is provided by the Office of Historic Alexandria.

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Alexandria Times Staff

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