African American changemakers have shaped the history of Alexandria and the United States. Alexandria offers new tours, markers and more to lead you through (largely outdoor) sites and stories both harrowing and hopeful. Grab your face mask and start exploring Alexandria’s history for a better understanding of today.
1. Explore 8 Key Sites on a Self-Guided Driving Tour
Take the newly updated eight-site “Courageous Journey” driving tour described at VisitAlexandriaVA.com/BlackHistory to see the city’s top African American history highlights at your own pace. The stops range from D.C.’s onetime southern cornerstone laid by Benjamin Banneker to the site of one of the nation’s earliest sit-ins and more.
2. Stop by an Integral Site for Legalizing Interracial Marriage
Head to the corner of King and N. Pitt St. in the heart of Old Town Alexandria to find a new mini kiosk commemorating the 1967 Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision, which legalized interracial marriage throughout the United States. The law firm Cohen, Cohen and Hirschkop represented Mildred and Richard Loving from their former 110 N. Royal St. office, around the corner from the marker.
3. Walk the Duke Street Black History Trail
Begin your “Great Walk” (see the route at https://www.VisitAlexandriaVA.com/GreatWalks) at Erik Blome’s Edmonson Sisters sculpture, a tribute to two teenage sisters who attempted escape from slavery, were captured and held in Alexandria’s Bruin Slave Jail, and later becoming vocal abolitionists alongside the likes of Frederick Douglass. End at the African American Heritage Park, whose centerpiece is a bronze tree sculpture onto which artist Jerome Meadows carved the names of African American citizens and sites.
4. Embark on Manumission Tour Company’s New Underground Railroad Route
Book a spot on Manumission Tour Company’s newest route which tells the story of enslaved Alexandrians who fled to freedom. The tour is based upon the writings of abolitionist William Still and his 1872 book, The Underground Railroad, which describes the enslaved people—including several from Alexandria—who used the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom through his Philadelphia safe house and on to Canada.
The Office of Historic Alexandria is a newly accepted member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, which connects past struggles to today’s movements for human rights—the city’s latest step to remember the past and pursue a more equitable future. Find additional sites to explore (including a self-guided waterfront heritage trail, and a statue honoring the NBA’s first Black basketball player) at Visit Alexandria’s new Black History & Culture web hub: VisitAlexandriaVA.com/BlackHistory.
PLUS: Check out VisitALX.com/Black-Owned-Businesses for an updated list of Black-owned small businesses in Alexandria to support, from restaurants and retail to beauty and wellness.
This article has been adapted from Caroline Secrest’s “8 New and Must-Do Black History Experiences in Alexandria” from the visitALX blog at VisitALX.com.