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Alexandria Black History Museum
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Page updated Aug 7, 2014 2:43 PM

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Alexandria Black History Museu


Watson Reading Room

African American Heritage Park 

Alexandria Black History Museum

The mission of the Black History Museum is to enrich the lives of Alexandria's residents and visitors, to foster tolerance and understanding among all cultures and to stimulate appreciation of the diversity of the African American experience. The institutional complex is composed of the Museum, the Watson Reading Room, and the Alexandria African American Heritage Park.

  • Alexandria Black History Museum: The Museum, devoted to exhibiting local and regional history, incorporates the Robert H. Robinson Library as one of two exhibition galleries. The Robert H. Robinson Library was originally constructed in 1940 following a sit-in at the segregated Alexandria Library.
  • Watson Reading Room: The Reading Room, established in 1995, provides an environment for learning about the diversity of African American cultural traditions.
  • African American Heritage Park: A nine-acre green space and wetland, the Park offers a place for celebration, commemoration and quiet reflection.


New Director at Alexandria Black History Museum

Audrey P. Davis has been appointed Director of the Alexandria Black History Museum. She has worked at the museum for 21 years, serving as Acting Director since July 2012. She is a past president of the Alexandria Historical Society and the Virginia Association of Museums, and served on the board of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy from 2004 through 2010.  



The Loving Story film flyerA three-part film series, Created Equal, is co-presented by the Humanities Council of Washington DC, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and the Alexandria Black History Museum and sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

The film Freedom Riders will be presented by the Alexandria Black History Museum this fall. Slavery by Another Name will be presented by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities/Institute for Historical Biology at William & Mary.

The first film in this series, The Loving Story was screened on June 19 at the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC.  This film told the story of Loving v. Loving, the landmark Civil Rights case that ended anti-miscegenation laws that banned interracial marriage. The case was argued in the Supreme Court by Alexandria attorney Bernard S. Cohen, later a member of the Virginia legislature.



  • Sit Down and Take a Stand: Samuel W. Tucker and the 1939 Alexandria Library Sit-In. Exhibit on view through August 1, 2014.Samuel W. Tucker was one of the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s Tucker represented African Americans in civil and criminal cases in Alexandria and Southside Virginia. On August 21, 1939, Tucker sent five young African-American men to stage a peaceful protest at the whites-only library at 717 Queen Street in Alexandria, VA. The five men were arrested for disorderly conduct, but the charges against the men were dropped. In September, the court heard Tucker’s petition and agreed that African-Americans should have access to a library. In 1940, the Robert H. Robinson Library was constructed for the African-American citizens of Alexandria. For more information, see our Samuel W. Tucker Lesson Plan.
  • Securing the Blessings of Liberty. The Museum's permanent exhibition seeks to document how the area African Americans survived slavery, helped to destroy it and eventually helped shape the community that we know today. Much of the built environment and the agriculture of Virginia was created and maintained by enslaved blacks. A brutal institution with old and deep roots in Virginia, slavery still haunts the American consciousness and affects our attitudes toward race, class and equality in the United States.
  • Past Exhibit -- Style and Identity: Black Alexandria in the 1970s , the popular exhibition of portraits by Horace Day, is now closed but the catalog is still available. Purchase a copy at the Alexandria Black History Museum, The Lyceum, and the History Center and Museum Store, or download a PDF version for free.


Contrabands & Freedmen Cemetery Memorial

Alexandria Contrabands  & Freedmen Cemetery served as the burial place for about 1,800 African Americans who fled to Alexandria to escape from bondage during the Civil War. The layout of the cemetery, revealed by historical and archaeological research, is reflected in the design of the Memorial at S. Washington and Church Streets.


The Fort: A Post-Civil War African American Community

Visit Fort Ward Park to see new historic signage highlighting the post-Civil War African American community known as The Fort. A copy of The Fort Heritage Trail Brochure is available online.

This community is the focus of an effort by the Office of Historic Alexandria to study and preserve the post-Civil War historic resources of Fort Ward Park. Archaeological excavations in the park, historical research, and oral histories highlight our growing knowledge of this community. Learn about the Stakeholder Advisory Group, and about archaeological and historical research, including reports on excavations, transcriptions of oral history interviews with former residents.


News and Information

  • Watch short videos about the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial on Comcast Newsmakers:

  • The Washingtonian Magazine picked the Alexandria Black History Museum as one of its "Hidden Gems" for their February 2014 issue.
  • Comcast Newsmakers: Appreciating Diversity: Ellen Russo speaks with Audrey Davis, the Acting Director of the Alexandria Black History Museum, about appreciating diversity and the cultural traditions of our nation. Watch the short video, created November 2013.
  • WTOP and NBC report: Film "Twelve Years a Slave" has ties to the Washington, D.C. area. Northrup was sold into slavery in 1841 through the Washington, D.C. slave dealer James H. Birch. In 1858, after Northrup was again a free man, Birch was co-owner of the Alexandria Slave Pen, now Freedom House Museum. Read the Associated Press article on WTOP, November 5, 2013, and watch the NBC News video from November 6, 2013, and see the film at local theaters.
  • Watch a video clip -- on The Alexandria Black History Museum, from WETA’s Around Town (2007). 
  • National Trust Visits Museum -- As part of its efforts to document Contraband heritage sites, the National Trust for Historic Preservation  visited Alexandria and interviewed Audrey Davis, Assistant Director and Curator of the Alexandria Black History Museum, and local historian Lillian Patterson. Check out the Preservation Nation blog and video now and learn about Alexandria's Contraband history!


Additional Information

  • The book African Americans in Alexandria, Virginia: Beacons of Light in the Twentieth Century has been nominated by the Library of Virginia (LVA) for its 17th Annual Library of Virginia LIterary Awards in the nonfiction category. Winners will be announced at LVA's Gala on October 18, 2014.  The book is also one of the selections for the Virginia Festival of Books. Authors Audrey Davis and Char McCargo Bah will join other authors on a panel on Community History at the Festival on March 21, 2014 at noon, in Charlottesville, VA. The book is available for sale at the Museum, at the Historic Alexandria Museum Shop located at The Lyceum, and online from The Alexandria Shop. All proceeds will go to the Museum to assist in their programming.
  • Walking Tour Brochure -- Download A Remarkable Journey: A Guide to Alexandria’s African American History. 
  • Visit Freedom House Museum at 1315 Duke Street, Alexandria. Formerly the headquarters of Franklin, Armfield & Co., this building housed the largest domestic slave trading company in the country.


American Alliance of Museums logo 

American Alliance of Museums
Accredited Museum


Alexandria Black History Museum
902 Wythe Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Phone: 703.746.4356
Fax: 703.706.3999

Museum Hours:
Tuesday - Saturday
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission - $2.00

Office Hours:
Tuesday - Saturday
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
by appointment only