African Americans have been an important part of the Alexandria’s history and vibrant community back to the city’s founding in 1749. Both as enslaved people and as free men and women, African-Americans have contributed to the city’s tapestry of life benefiting the community of Alexandria with rich economic and cultural contributions. Alexandria was a key city during the US Civil War and though Robert E. Lee is one of the city’s sons, the city was quickly occupied by the Union and remained in Federal hands through-out the war.
After the war the city was segregated but a defining moment in the history of segregation in Alexandria occurred in 1939 when five young African-American men staged a “sit-in” at the city’s segregated Queen Street Library. The young men brought focus to the issue of the inequality of educational opportunities and as a result Alexandria built the Robert Robinson Library in 1940. This library was used by African-Americans until desegregation in the early 1960’s. Today, that structure is a foundational element of the Alexandria Black History Museum.
Alexandria Black History Museum
902 Wythe Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 838-4356
Fax: (703) 706-3999
In time, additional sites were added to the museum. At the eastern bound of the Carlyle District one will find the Alexandria African American Heritage Park. Next door to the Museum, the Watson Reading Room houses a non-circulating collection of books, videos, documents, and periodicals on African-American life and culture.
The African American Museum is a source of pride for all Alexandrians. The museum has a calendar of events and rotating exhibits, so check back even if you have already been to the museum. From Benjamin Banneker in Alexandria’s earliest days, to Dr. Albert Johnson to Samuel Wilbert Tucker during the Civil Rights Movement, Alexandria is a focal point in that courageous and audacious journey that led to the diverse, vibrant and prosperous Alexandria of today.
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