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City of Alexandria, VA City of Alexandria, VA
Alexandria Black History Museum
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Page updated Apr 3, 2014 11:48 AM

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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.


  • 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.

Contrabands & Freedmen Cemetery Memorial

  • Dedication Ceremony, Saturday September 6, 2014.  

  •  "The Journey to be Free: Descendants Returning Home to Alexandria." If you missed the special March 5 performance, we hope to repeat this event during the Dedication week. 

  • Construction of the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial has been proceeding, and stonework for the Memorial walls, walkways and entry gate has now been completed. Explore photo galleries of the construction, and read more about the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial history, archaeology of the site, and commemoration ceremonies. 

  • Freedmen's Cemetery Ornament: The ornament commemorates the 150th anniversary of the cemetery’s first burial and the memorial’s official opening in September, 2014.The ornament depicts Mario Chiodo’s passionate statue, The Path of Thorns and Roses, framed by the memorial’s arched entranceway. As the centerpiece of the memorial, the statue depicts the allegoric figures of Oppression, Struggle, Sacrifice, Loss, Compassion, and Hope. Available for $18.00 from Alexandria's museum shops and online from The Alexandria Shop. 

Current News and Information

  • The Washingtonian Magazine picked the Alexandria Black History Museum as one of its "Hidden Gems" for their February 2014 issue.
  •  Comcast Newsmakers: 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.
  • 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

Additional Information

  • Walking Tour Brochure -- Download A Remarkable Journey: A Guide to Alexandria’s African American History. 
  • Freedom House Museum -- 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • Watch a video clip -- on The Alexandria Black History Museum, from WETA’s Around Town (2007). 

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