Untold Stories in America's History

WI Staff | 9/2/2014, 2:45 p.m.
To walk through the streets of Alexandria is to walk through a rich and bountiful timeline of America's Black history.

To walk through the streets of Alexandria is to walk through a rich and bountiful timeline of America's Black history. The city's place in the nation's fabric exemplifies the spectrum of the Black experience in the United States, with stories of strength, resilience and enormous contributions to the community. From slavery, to the Civil War, to the Civil Rights era, the African-American presence in Alexandria is both lingering and inspiring.

On Saturday, Sept. 6, at 10 a.m., over 500 descendants and guests will gather in Alexandria to dedicate the Contrabands and Freedman Cemetery Memorial. The memorial will officially honor the 1,700 African-Americans who died in the city during the American Civil War. In the early years of the Civil War, slaves who had escaped into areas under Union control were called contrabands, after the term “contraband of war,” which protected their refugee status and prevented them from being sent back into slavery. Many of those buried were refugees who fled from Maryland, and areas in Virginia, to Alexandria, seeking freedom from slavery.

Open daily, the new memorial joins the city's abundance of African-American heritage sites and experiences that tell, not only, the story of Alexandria's Black history, but also an important part of America's story that extends from the Civil War to Civil Rights. From the Freedom House Museum to the Alexandria Black History Museum, plus self-guided walking tours and the comprehensive history guide A Remarkable and Courageous Journey, these thought-provoking experiences bring to light the remarkable contributions made by Alexandria's African-American community.

While the post Civil War era helped establish Alexandria as a place of opportunity, it is often unknown that much of the Civil Rights movement began in the beautiful waterfront town where the nation's first sit-down strike took place in the Alexandria Library. Since that day, the city has become a bustling center of change and marks a pivotal place in the Civil Rights movement. Alexandria offers a unique perspective into the incredible history of Black America, with sites available to tour dating back to the Civil War.

With an African-American population of 20.9 percent, it doesn't take much to see that Alexandria continues to hold a distinct place in the nation's African-American history. The city currently has its first Black mayor, first Black city manager, first Black city attorney, first Black Circuit Court judge, first Black police chief, and its first Black president of the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Center.

One of the most captivating parts of Alexandria is that it has so much to offer. Beyond its dynamic historical significance, this breathtaking waterfront city is nationally recognized for its thriving art and music scene, critically acclaimed restaurants and abundance of chic boutiques. The Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial is now another example of the stories that can be uncovered in this incredible city.

You have an opportunity to be part of history and finally honor the lives lost by bearing witness to the dedication of this historical site. For more information, visit www.VisitAlexandriaVA.com/Freedmen.