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Black History: Sen. Mark Warner Gets ‘Manumission’ Tour in Old Town

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner has lived in Old Town for 35 years, and on a freezing Monday morning he learned about the lives of enslaved and free Blacks via a tour with Alexandria City Councilman John Taylor Chapman.

“We have to tell the whole story — the good, the bad, the ugly,” Warner told ALXnow. “I’ve lived in Alexandria for 35 years and I’m hearing some of these stories for the first time.”

Chapman, who founded the Manumission Tour Company in 2015 to tell stories about the struggle for freedom in Alexandria, said that he’s been trying to get VIPs like Warner to take one of his tours for years.

“We’ve had thousands of people come here (on Manumission tours),” Chapman said. “We’ve had family reunions, we’ve had VIPs… and a lot of out of town guests. So, I like to say especially for political reasons, I’m adding to the city coffers with my tourism company and my business taxes as well.”

The seven-block tour lasted just under an hour and included Lloyd House, the Fairfax-Moore-Montague House, the Oscar Ball runaway site, the Moses Hepburn homes, Gadsby’s Tavern and City Hall. Alexandria was a duty-free port of call with one of the largest slave trading operations in the country, making it a popular destination during the 19th century.

Warner, who acknowledged that Monday was a difficult day weather-wise to conduct an outdoor tour, attended in recognition of February as Black History Month.

“We lived last year through COVID, the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, an unprecedented election, and then starting on January 6, an insurrection at the Capitol,” Warner told ALXnow. “The history of this country, the history of our city, the history of the Commonwealth is a lot different than the history that probably I got taught with my school books back in the 1960s.”

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