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New Black History Month events announced for Alexandria, including upgrades to waterfront trail

Page from a 1858 registry of Black Alexandria residents (image via City of Alexandria)

Black History Month kicks off next week and events around Alexandria throughout February will explore, commemorate and celebrate Black history in the city.

One of the biggest new additions is the “African American Waterfront Heritage Trail” running along the waterfront.

The trail previously existed as a self-guided tour driven by a website, but next month, there will be a ribbon cutting for new signs marking the trail.

Eleven new signs have been added to the trail, detailing the city’s Black history across centuries.

The ribbon cutting is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 10.

“The 11 signs and two orientation panels illuminate the history of the African American community in Alexandria over the span of several centuries,” a release said. “The event will begin at 11 a.m. at the new Fishtown sign on the river side of Founders Park (351 N. Union Street).”

A reception after the ribbon cutting will be held on the third floor of the Torpedo Factory.

The list of events celebrating Black History Month, put together by Visit Alexandria, is below:

Exhibit: “Searching for Truth in the Garden” at Freedom House Museum

Now until April 15, 2024

Admission: $5 per adult, $3 per child (ages 5-12) and free for City of Alexandria residents

Freedom House Museum, 1315 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

 Gonzaga High School’s groundbreaking research on slavery, “Searching for Truth in the Garden,” found new life at the Freedom House Museum. The traveling exhibition, on view through April 15, 2024, delves into the life of Gabriel, a teenager enslaved at Washington Seminary (now Gonzaga) in 1829. Gabriel’s story offers a poignant lens through which to examine the complexities of slavery and its lasting impact.

 African American Emancipation in an Occupied City Book Launch

February 3, 2024, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Admission: Free

Alexandria History Museum at The Lyceum, 201 S. Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314


 Hear from editor Audrey Davis and the authors of African American Emancipation in an Occupied City, which tells the story of formerly enslaved and self-emancipated people in a newly occupied city during the Civil War. They sought refuge in Alexandria, coming with only hopes and dreams for life as free people. They came seeking freedom, but many did not live long in it. Those who survived used their labor for the cause of freedom. A book signing will follow after the authors’ presentations. The event is free, but online registration is encouraged.

African American Film Series
February 8, 2024, from 2 to 4 p.m.: “Banker”
February 29, 2024, from 2 to 4 p.m.: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Admission: Free
Ellen Coolidge Burke Branch Library, 4701 Seminary Roud Suite 104, Alexandria, VA 22304

In honor of Black History Month, the library will be showing a series of films throughout the month.

Manumission Tour Company Black History Bus Tour
February 10, 2024, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 12 to 1:30 p.m.

February 17, 2024, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m.
Admission: $35 per person
Tour meets at the Alexandria Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

Ride with Manumission Tour Company on a 90-minute guided bus tour to visit various African American historic sites in Alexandria. You will hear stories of both enslaved and free African Americans prior to the Civil War as well as understand the stories behind some of Alexandria’s most well-known African American historic sites. Sites will include the Alexandria National Cemetery, Alfred Street Baptist Church, Shiloh Baptist Church, Church Alley, the African American Heritage Park, the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery, Barrett Library and more.  

African American Waterfront Heritage Trail Signs Ribbon Cutting
February 10, 2024, beginning at 11 a.m.
Admission: Free
New Fishtown sign on the river side of Founders Park, 351 N. Union Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

The African American Heritage Trail Committee invites the public to join in a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the installation of new interpretive signs along Alexandria’s historic waterfront. The 11 signs and two orientation panels illuminate the history of the African American community in Alexandria over the span of several centuries. The event will begin at 11 a.m. at the new Fishtown sign on the river side of Founders Park (351 N. Union Stret). A reception following the ribbon cutting will be held in the Overlook Room (#325) on the third floor of the Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union Street. This event will be rain or shine. Please note: You do not need to print off tickets. Your name will be on the registration list for the event.

Concert: Washington Revels Jubilee Voices
February 18, 2024, from 2 to 3 p.m.
Admission: Free
Alexandria’s History Museum at The Lyceum, 201 S. Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

Join Washington Revels Jubilee Voices for an exploration of the Gullah-Geechee culture and life in St. Simons Island, Georgia. This multimedia program, “Wade in the Water,” was developed in partnership with Mercer University, blending songs and stories of the Gullah Geechee community and featuring six student films that capture the history, lives and spirit of these proud people, whose numbers are dwindling due to several factors, including increasing development. The event is free, but online registration is encouraged.

Virtual Documentary Viewing: “Still Bill”
February 21, 2024, from 7 to 9 p.m.
Admission: Free
Virtual via Zoom

For African American History Month, enjoy a virtual screening of the documentary “Still Bill” about music legend and Hall of Famer, Bill Withers. Please register with an email address to receive the screening link. Registration closes at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 20, 2024.

Black Dance: Housing the Past and the Present
February 22, 2024, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Admission: Free
Virtual via Zoom

Join a virtual presentation exploring how colonialism brought an end to authentic African dance with Associate Professor of Dance at George Mason University Lawrence M. Jackson, who in 2011 co-authored and edited a special edition on Black dance in the Journal of Pan African Studies. In this presentation, he explains how Black dance keeps those African cultural traditions alive and is an affirmation of identity and independence.

Alma Thomas Art
February 24, 2024, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Admission: Free
Beth Patridge Meeting Room in James M. Duncan Jr. Branch Library, 2501 Commonwealth Ave., Alexandria, VA 22301

Celebrate the close of Black History Month by creating your own art piece inspired by Alma Thomas. All materials will be provided. The event is for children ages 6 to 12 and teens.

Bright Star Theatre: George Washington Carver and Friends
February 27, 2024, from 6 to 7 p.m.

Admission: Free
Charles E. Beatley Jr. Central Library, 5005 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22304

Meet Black entrepreneurs and groundbreakers like George Washington Carver, Madame CJ Walker, Thurgood Marshall and more in this interactive theater performance. The event is for children grades K to 5.

Burke Book Club: “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison

February 28, 2024, from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
Admission: Free
Virtual via Zoom

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