ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WDVM) — The City of Alexandria has a rich African American history. African Americans have played an essential role in building the city since it was founded in 1749. The tobacco port town was supported by African American labor — according to a 1790 U.S. Census, they made up nearly 22 percent of the population.
Much of Alexandria’s waterfront history isn’t formally marked (with the exception of a historic marker at the foot of Montgomery Street, the former home of the Old Dominion Glass Corporation in the 1920s, where African American teens worked).
Thanks to the work of the Alexandria Archaeological Commission, that history is being shared. Take a self-guided tour through 11 historic stops along the waterfront as part of the African American Heritage Trail.
The city’s archaeologist Eleanor Breen supported the project and led the team of volunteers through historical documents. “Oftentimes, there’s so much change in cities and so you don’t realize all the events that have gone on in a particular place because they haven’t left a physical map,” Breen said. “But this story map, this interactive map, allows an opportunity to bring those events pertaining to African American history to life.”
The city was home to another factory in the 1870s. The dangerous fertilizer factory paid its worker’s low wages, and in August of 1944, 59 African American employees went on strike. After nearly 10 days, it was successful.
Breen says the walk takes about 45 minutes at a leisurely pace. If you can’t make the walk-in person, a virtual story map is also available to view.
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