After a pandemic closure and a change of ownership, the Freedom House Museum at 1315 Duke Street has reopened. The City of Alexandria-owned historic property will have its grand reopening on Juneteenth.
The National Historic Landmark is the remaining portion of a complex that trafficked thousands of Black men, women and children between 1828 and 1861.The onetime residence was converted into a massive slave jail complex that took up half of the block. Despite changing hands repeatedly in the years prior to the Civil War, all the building’s owners maintained the space to engage in slave trafficking. The museum honors the Black people- both free and those enslaved who lived in- and were stolen and trafficked through–Alexandria.
On May 24, 1861, the Union Army liberated the complex when they entered Alexandria the day after Virginians voted to adopt the State’s ordinance of secession.
The museum says part of its mission is to be more truthful to the realities of the past, and reframe white supremacist history while giving visitors “opportunities to learn, reflect and advocate for change.”
A statement from Mayor Justin Wilson reads in part, “Freedom House will inform visitors while challenging them to critically examine our history. I am proud that we are telling this story and honoring the lives and experiences of those who passed through this building.”
The exhibit spans three floors of the museum:
- The museum shares some of the stories of those who were brought from the Chesapeake Bay area, moved through 1315 Duke Street, and forced into slave markets in the deep South. The exhibit includes archaeological artifacts and a model of the complex.
- A traveling exhibition from the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, Determined: The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality, chronicles 400 years of Black history in Virginia. Determined in Alexandria is a companion exhibition about Black Alexandrians who fought for their freedom and rights as they worked and built the foundations of the City of Alexandria and the larger American community.
- Before the Spirits Are Swept Away is a series of paintings of African American sites by the late Sherry Z. Sanabria. The third floor also includes a reflection space with a bronze model of Alexandria’s well known Edmonson Sisters sculpture by artist Erik Blome.
Just a week after the Freedom House Museum closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 24, 2020, the City of Alexandria purchased the building from the Urban League of Northern Virginia. The Freedom House Museum is part of Alexandria’s large collection of historic sites, tours, markers and other artifacts that help to recount part of the story of the nation from the Colonial era, through the Civil War and Reconstruction and Civil Rights eras, to today.
The museum will be open to the public Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays and Mondays from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 per adult, $3 per child ages 5–12, and free for City of Alexandria residents. Due to high demand and limited capacity, it is highly recommended that guests reserve tickets in advance online.
A grand opening event is scheduled for Monday, June 20.