By Gayle Converse and Pat Miller | AlexandriaCelebratesWomen@gmail.com
The daughter of a once-enslaved laborer was instrumental in turning what was once an infamous Alexandria site – where liberty had been denied to thousands of individuals – into a museum of freedom.
Annie Beatrice Bailey Rose was born 130 years ago, in 1893. Her father, Rev. Henry Bailey, had been sold as a youth by the owners of the slave jail at 1315 Duke St. Before the American Civil War, the Franklin and Armfield Slave Pen was one of the largest human trafficking enterprises in the United States, exporting almost 4,000 enslaved persons to plantations in the nation’s southernmost states. The jail was later operated by C. M. Price and John C. Cook. On May 24, 1861, the Union Army liberated the slave jail complex.
In 1863, an emancipated Henry Bailey managed to return to Alexandria where his mother lived. He laid track for the railroad between Washington and Richmond, learned to read and earned a degree in education.
Inspired by her father’s achievements, Annie chose a career as a school teacher in the Alexandria vicinity and worked at the U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving. She married William Henry Rose of Alexandria.
She immersed herself in many causes and would work for the next 40 years to improve the lives of others. In the 1940s, Annie encouraged African Americans to register to vote. She helped establish the city’s first Commission on Aging and was a founding member of the Senior Citizens Employment Services of Alexandria. She was also one of the founders of the Society for the Preservation of Black Heritage.
Annie fought for civil rights on a national scale. In 1963, she helped organize, and along with 200 Alexandrians participated in, the March on Washington. Annie never forgot that 1315 Duke St. was where her father had been sold. In 1978, her work ensured that the atrocities committed there would never be ignored when the site was granted National Historic Landmark status. It is now the Freedom House Museum. Reopened in 2022 under the stewardship of the Office of Historic Alexandria, “the Museum honors the lives and experiences of the enslaved and free Black people who lived in and were trafficked through Alexandria.”
Annie helped to create a second life for the Robinson Library. Built in 1940 on North Alfred Street, the facility served as the city’s first public library for African Americans. The Robinson Library was the first 20th century building to occupy the site. In 1983, with the vision and assistance of Annie, the location became the Black History Resource Center, now the Alexandria Black History Museum. Today, the Alexandria Black History Museum includes the Museum, the Watson Reading Room and the Alexandria African American Heritage Park.
“Annie B. Rose is an excellent example of a citizen activist. It was her love of history and her hatred of injustice that propelled her to fight for the preservation of African American landmarks around Alexandria,” Alexandria Black History Museum Director Audrey Davis said. “African American women are often left out of America’s preservation narratives. We owe a debt to citizen preservation activists like Annie B. Rose and Lillie Finklea whose commitment to Black History and preservation made Alexandria more inclusive.”
In 1987, Annie was honored by the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging Inc. for her efforts to register voters, obtain housing for the poor and improve services for the elderly.
Soon after her death in 1989, the former Pendleton House was renamed The Annie B. Rose House and now serves as a modern private residence for aging, limited income Alexandrians.
What this Alexandria woman, the child of a former enslaved person, accomplished in her 96 years is an inspiration for all of us.
Long live freedom, Annie B. Rose.