It’s exciting when a city known for its history is able to significantly enhance its storytelling. That’s happening now in Alexandria with black history.
This deliberate effort to provide a deeper look into an important facet of our city’s heritage will enhance our historical offerings. A more inclusive look at those who came before provides a richness and greater authenticity and will help us better understand how we got to where we are.
Three on-going pillars of Alexandria’s remembrance of black history have been commemorations of the peaceful sit-in organized by Samuel W. Tucker in 1939 at the Alexandria whites-only library, celebrations on Martin Luther King Jr. Day each January and programs at the city’s Black History Museum.
In recent years, those offerings have been complemented by the Manumission Tour Company started by Councilor John Chapman, which curates cultural tours highlighting black history in Alexandria, and the opening of the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery in 2014.
The city’s black history offerings are about to take another gi- ant leap forward. Last month, the city purchased Freedom House, a former slave trading site, from the Northern Virginia Urban League. Located at 1315 Duke St., Freedom House served for more than 30 years as the slave trading headquarters for five different slave trading firms.
It takes little imagination to realize the horrors that took place at this site, and its story must be fully told.
Other historical presentations will also be thought provoking. The upcoming exhibit on Alexandria’s waterfront, “Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies” by artist Olalekan Jeyifous will consist of four large metal pieces that depict parts of the city’s black heritage. Additional offerings include new tours along Alexandria’s Duke Street corridor and in Fort Ward Park, as well as more cultural events such as film screenings.
The presentation of Alexandria’s history is becoming richer by the day as the story of African Americans, both those who resided here and those who were forcibly taken to and sold from our city, will be told as never before.