Alexandria, VA

The School Board will be taking up the question of renaming T.C. Williams High School this fall, but whether the school should be renamed is still undecided.

The school was built on land taken by eminent domain from a nearby black community and then was named in honor of Superintendent Thomas Chambliss Williams. Williams was an ardent segregationist who fought not only to keep the black and white students divided, but fired a school employee who tried to get her children sent to an integrated school.

A Facebook group played a prominent role in spreading a petition to rename the school, though efforts have since grown beyond just renaming T.C. Advocates also say Matthew Maury Elementary School, named after Confederate leader and oceanographer Matthew Maury, should be renamed as well.

In neighboring Arlington County, Washington-Lee High School was renamed Washington-Liberty early last year.

Defenders of the T.C. Williams name, which have popped up in the Facebook group, say the school’s name is part of a legacy beyond Williams — frequently citing the mostly inaccurate film Remember the Titans.

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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City Councilman John Taylor Chapman never learned Alexandria’s real African American history in school, and now he’s teaching everyone who will listen. After a coronavirus-related hiatus, his Manumission Tour Company is officially back on track with in-person tours of Alexandria’s Black historical sites.

“I did not feel that I knew some of the stories that I’m telling now when I was growing up,” Chapman told ALXnow.

Alexandria’s history is full of stories of heroism, adversity, tragedy, defeat and triumph, and for the last four years, Chapman has led tours teaching residents and visitors about the city’s African American experience.

“The word Manumission means to be freed by a piece of paper,” Chapman said. “For us to name the company as such opens up a conversation when we chat with people about what we do. It’s an opportunity to talk about the struggle freedom in Alexandria, which was one of the biggest slave ports in the country.”

The next tour, which is limited to nine people for social distancing, will be held outside the Barrett Library on Friday, June 27, to talk about abolitionists, runaway slaves and free Blacks in the city before the end of the Civil War.

One of the people who received such a piece of paper was Moses Hepburn. The Alexandrian was born as a slave in 1809 to one of the owners of a plantation on Shooters Hill, which is now home to the George Washington Masonic Memorial.

“His aunt ended up purchasing his freedom when he was a young boy, and he was sent to school in Pennsylvania,” Chapman said. “When his father died, he left him a great bit of money. Moses became quite wealthy and became a big developer in the city and helped build some of the initial African American churches in the city.”

Other stories include Dominic Bearcroft’s popular tavern — known for its juicy crabs — in a building right across from City Hall. Bearcroft was one of the first African Americans to get a business license in the city.

“One of the things you figure out very quickly about these individuals is that their lives were very complex,” Chapman said. “The things that they had to deal with, the hoops they had to jump through is all very humbling.”

Alexandria’s slave trade peaked between 1820 and the start of the Civil War, Chapman said.

“Prior to that we were a colonial town,” he said. “There was slave trading as early as the 1700s, but the peak of it was when Franklin and Armfield put down roots here, establishing the slave trade and really blowing up their business. During the 1800s they were one of the top slave traders in the nation.”

The Freedom House Museum now occupies the former Franklin and Armfield headquarters.

“Alexandria became a haven for African Americans to escape the south, and we had an influx of African Americans toward the back end of the Civil War,” Chapman said. “After the Civil War, Alexandria had segregated areas of town and segregated schools.”

Fraternal organizations grew and prospered over the years, including Universal Lodge 1, and so did church groups and later the Departmental Progressive Club.

“We’re not a perfect community,” Chapman said. “We still have folks that are still struggling in school, particularly certain racial and ethnic classes. There are certain groups that are still struggling a little bit more with a lower standard of living, and it’s frankly reflective of what we’re seeing across the nation. We still have a ways to go, even though we want to be a progressive and inclusive community.”

Photo via Manumission Tour Company/Facebook

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Local News Now is the company behind the site you’re reading. We aren’t usually very visible or vocal, preferring to let the reporting of our Northern Virginia local news brands — ARLnow, ALXnow, Tysons Reporter, Reston Now — speak for itself. 

LNN does not endorse candidates nor publish editorials. But today we would like to make the following statement, the first of its kind in our company’s 10 year history.

Black lives matter.

We are far from the first company to state this incontrovertible fact, but it bears repeating. Black lives matter and the threat from systemic racism and racial injustice needs to be addressed by urgent policy reforms and an honest ongoing discussion.

To that end, our sites will continue our local reporting on matters related to inequitable policies, misconduct by those in authority, and the concerns of marginalized communities. We will keep reporting without fear or favor, with a facts-first approach that illuminates and informs.

We believe that impartiality can coexist in journalism with deeply held principles. For instance, belief in free speech, our democratic system, and the importance of small business is widely held among U.S.-based local news publications, including ours. We do not try to “balance” election stories by saying that some do not believe in democracy and fair elections. It’s just a given that elections are a positive part of our society. 

Likewise, we also believe that Black lives matter and believe in LGBTQ equality, and do not feel the need to provide a counterpoint to either in our reporting. The worth of a human life and equal treatment under a law are objectively positive things. There’s no debate, no second side that needs to be heard in order to be impartial.

We recognize that there has been room to evolve our approach to local news over the years. More about some of the changes we have implemented can be found here. We will continue to evaluate our reporting and approach to covering the community as we move forward.

Today is Juneteenth, which celebrates the emancipation of remaining enslaved persons at the end of the Civil War. We are giving our employees — who have tirelessly covered the pandemic and protests over the past few months — the afternoon off as a time of reflection. We hope that our readers also use this opportunity to reflect on the challenge of achieving racial justice in this country, including here at home.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Morning Notes

Governor Announces Moratorium on Rent Evictions — “The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia has granted my request for a temporary moratorium on all eviction proceedings in the Commonwealth through June 28–this action will help keep thousands of Virginia families in their homes amid the ongoing public health crisis.” [Facebook]

Alexandria’s Noah Lyles Reaching National Stardom — “Lyles, who turned 22 last week, might be on the cusp of his own full bloom, from track and field’s next big thing to the face of the sport in America.” [Washington Post]

Frank Fannon Named Living Legend of Alexandria — “From his volunteer position at Agenda: Alexandria, long-time resident and chairman Frank Fannon stays on top of issues that matter to the residents of the city without directly taking sides.” [Zebra]

Office of Historic Alexandria Offering Survey Over Digital Program — “Please take a few minutes to fill out this survey about what you would like to see from OHA digitally in the coming months.” [Facebook]

Port City Brewing Co. Hosting BeerYoga — “BeerYoga classes return virtually with Melody Abella starting weekly this June! It’s a donation-based class and 100% of the money raised from the June classes will go to AGLA – Serving Northern Virginia LGBTQ and Allies in honor of PRIDE month.” [Facebook]

Video: Bishop Ireton High School Creating Diversity & Inclusion Council — “Good morning from the Bishop Ireton Head of School, Kathleen McNutt, on Monday, June 8, 2020 featuring a special message about racial justice and Bishop Ireton’s plans to create a Diversity & Inclusion Council.” [Facebook]

Alexandria Library to Offer Curbside Service — “Residents may be able to start picking up previous holds curbside starting, likely, on June 15.” [Alexandria Living]

Hilton Alexandria Mark Center Hosting Weddings for $1,000 — ” Wedding must take place by December 31, 2020. Offer does not include taxes or service charge. Offers cannot be combined or transferred. Call your romance specialist and director of romance and catering Fatima Ayari at 703.845.7667 for details.” [Facebook]

New Job: Assistant General Manager at Old Navy — “You’re responsible for driving profitable sales growth through all aspects of the store including; customer and product operations, merchandising, and talent development. You are responsible for supporting the execution of the store strategy to achieve performance goals.” [Indeed]

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A property once owned in part by George Washington, and recently turned into a shrine to the first president, is now on sale for $4.1 million.

The building’s history is more Washington-adjacent, with neighboring home 508 Cameron Street being Washington’s townhome (though the building there today is a reconstruction). The 5,132 square-foot home as 506 Cameron Street’s Washington claim comes from the kitchen, which was reportedly the site of an out-house kitchen at the original Washington property.

The current home was built in 1815, but according to the listing is fully renovated. According to the listing:

Fully renovated historic single family home/investment property located just a block away from fabulous restaurants and shopping on King Street with five private parking spaces! Built in 1815, the historic kitchen (rumored to have been an original out-house kitchen on this property once owned by George Washington) sits right off of the family dining room and displays exposed brick, original fireplace and all of the modern kitchen amenities.

The house has eight bedrooms and eight full bathrooms. The house has not only a washer and dryer on the second floor, but a commercial washer and dryer in the basement. The listing notes that the house could be used either as a rental property or a. single-family home.

Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated 10:40 a.m.) This morning (Tuesday) a construction crane at the intersection of Prince and Washington Streets took down the Appomattox statue honoring Confederate soldiers that has been the object of criticism and controversy for decades.

The statue had been the object of criticism from those who said it represented a celebration of the city’s legacy of racism and slavery. For years, a state law prohibited the moving or removal of monuments to veterans, which grouped in specifically monuments honoring the Confederacy, but in April Gov. Ralph Northam signed new legislation authorizing localities to remove statues honoring the Confederacy.

“Some said this day would never come,” City Councilman John Chapman, who also runs the Manumission Tour Company covering the city’s black history, said on Facebook. “The confederate statue Appomattox is starting to be taken down. We, our community made this happen. I got the receipts to show it.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said he had no idea what happens to the statue now, saying the United Daughters of Confederacy (UDC) — which owns the statue — were the ones who took it down rather than have the city remove it.

The move comes amid nationwide protests against racism and police brutality in the wake of Minneapolis man George Floyd’s death. The UDC building in Richmond was recently targeted in protests on Sunday (May 31) which also vandalized Confederate Statues across the former capital of the Confederacy.

“This has been a policy for several years, and there were folks in the community pursuing this for decades,” Wilson said. “For us, the effort is more than just a statue, it’s making sure that we tell the broader scope of our history. For so long, the reaction to this statue has been… that we’ve only told a narrow portion of our history.”

Wilson said the removal of the monument is part of a larger effort to tell the more inclusive history of the city, which includes the acquisition of the Freedom House and the city’s participation in the Equal Justice Initiative, which memorializes victims of lynchings.

William “Bill” Euille, who was the first African-American mayor in Alexandria, protested against the statue when he was a student at T.C. Williams high school in the 1960s and helped lead discussions in 2015 that led to the city officially calling for the statue’s removal.

“More than 50 years ago, four high schools came together with religious and community leaders and marched on the statue in protest demanding its removal, and then we went to City Hall to lobby City Council,” Euille said. “Unfortunately, we were not successful, however, the call has continued through all these many years. It’s about persistence and preservation, and in the midst of racial protests and riots across America, we can now rejoice in victory and inclusiveness. Many thanks to city leaders.”

Photo via Justin Wilson/Twitter

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The Office of Historic Alexandria is closed, as are many historic locations around Alexandria, but the office is nonetheless offering digital tours of those facilities for those stuck at home and looking to scratch that local history itch.

Two of the current focuses for the Office of Historic Alexandria are American Civil War hospitals and profiles related to the Lee-Fendall House. Both are offered through Vamonde, a travel website that offers a platform to post information about localities.

There are eight hospitals profiled throughout Alexandria, including a converted church and a hotel where — like now — low occupancy meant there was room to house and treat those in need. Many of the properties converted were targeted because of the owners’ Confederate sympathies. At St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, a minister was allegedly arrested during the way for not including a prayer for Abraham Lincoln in his Sunday service and the church was closed.

Alexandria’s hospitals during the Civil War were also the subject of the short-lived PBS show Mercy Street.

The profiles at the Lee-Fendall House run the gamut of time periods, from its construction in 1785 to its occupancy in the 1960s’ by labor leader John L. Lewis. The profiles also range the class spectrum, from a wealthy local merchant to free black women who maintained the house after the Civil War.

A behind-the-scenes tour of the interior of the building is also available through the Office of Historic Alexandria.

Photo via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Fairlington UMC Warns Against Phishing Scam — “Remember the phrase ‘fishers of men?’ We have PHISHERS again. They are sending emails and TEXTS from ‘Janine Howard’ asking you to go out and buy ebay cards for them. Don’t do it. If you’d like to make charitable donations, call or go to our website.” [Facebook]

Burke & Herbert Bank Issues More Than 1,100 PPP Loans — “Today Burke & Herbert Bank, which has been serving the northern Virginia business community for more than 167 years, announced that nearly 1,100 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans totaling approximately $136 million in aid for local businesses have been approved for the Bank’s customers.  As a result, an estimated 10,000 individuals in the local community will remain employed or return to the businesses’ payroll.” [Zebra]

Inova Alexandria Hospital Gets ‘A’ Safety Rating — “We are so proud Inova Alexandria Hospital was awarded an ‘A’ for The Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Safety Grade for the 4th consecutive time and we are thrilled that all five Inova hospitals were awarded an ‘A.’ Leapfrog’s Hospital Safety Grade is a national distinction which recognizes achievements in protecting patients from harm and providing safer healthcare.” [Facebook]

Rotary Club Awards $65K to Local Nonprofits — “The grants seek to improve the lives of children, youth, seniors and those with special needs in the Alexandria community. The grants are traditionally presented at the organization’s annual Contributions Day Luncheon in mid-June. Due to the current COVID-19 crisis, recipients were notified earlier this month and funds were dispersed in an effort to quickly support the needs of each nonprofit.” [Gazette]

ACPS Releases Info on Buying Graduation Caps and Gowns for Virtual Graduation — “Total cost for the cap, gown, and tassel (includes tax and shipping) is $44.47. The cap, gown, and tassel will then be delivered to your home. If you pre-ordered your cap and gown, Herff Jones will be shipping them out next week. You should receive it by May 15!” [Facebook]

Sheriff’s Office Recognizes National Nurses Week — “Today marks the start of National Nurses Week. We work closely together every day so we know how awesome our nurses are but this year, we really can’t say ‘thank you’ often enough!” [Facebook]

Historic Map Comparisons Reveal 18th Century Waterfront Expansion — “This 1749 map shows the minimally altered shoreline of the city running in a gentle arc from West’s Point to the north down to Point Lumley. This 1798 map shows dramatic changes to the shoreline. In 50 years, Alexandrians created several blocks of new land along the Potomac River, changing both the physical landscape and the City’s economic prospects.” [Facebook]

Alexandria Living Magazine Participating in Face Mask Contest — “Alexandria Living Magazine has teamed up with Mission Masks by KH Giving to encourage more Alexandria residents to wear masks while supporting local businesses and nonprofit organizations. Plus, purchasing a Mission Mask will earn you an entry into a raffle where you can win prizes valued at up to $15,000, including jewelry, local restaurant and retailer gift cards, wine from Sonoma Cellar and much more.” [Facebook]

New Job: Harris Teeter Hiring Customer Service Management Assistant — “Supervise up to 120 associates in the Customer Service Department [cashiers, baggers, customer service clerks] and accounting office. Is responsible for assisting the Department Manager with the overall direction, coordination, and evaluation of these departments. Carry out supervisory responsibilities in accordance with Harris Teeter’s policies and standards.” [Indeed]

It’s Hurricane Preparedness Week — “It’s Hurricane Preparedness Week, and @AlexandriaVAGov is urging the community to be prepared for a potential land-falling storm or hurricane. Making preparations now is the best way to protect yourself, your property and your loved ones.” [Twitter]

Virginia Theological Seminary Panel Discussion on Vacation Bible School at 3 p.m. — “Vacation Bible School is a flagship event for Christian formation and discipleship in many churches. As we live into the COVID-19 pandemic, folks are wondering how to move forward. Do we cancel altogether? Should we offer the full programming via Zoom? Would people use activity bags for pick-up at the church? We feel ourselves wondering, ‘NOW WHAT?'” [Eventbrite]

Alexandria Symphony Orchestra Trio Performing at Goodwin House at 4 p.m. — “Residents will open their windows at 4:00 p.m. to be treated to a 30-minute program performed by a trio of brass players led by ASO Music Director James Ross. Some residents will also enjoy the concert via limited seats on Goodwin House Alexandria’s rooftop. Thursday’s Courtyard Concert is just one activity Goodwin House Alexandria has planned to keep residents in high spirits, while maintaining social distancing. Many Goodwin House Alexandria residents are subscribers to the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra.” [ASO]

Del Ray Conducting Community Porch Party at 6 p.m. — “The Del Ray Business Association is proud to present the first-ever First Thursday: Porch Party from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 7. In the spirit of Del Ray’s summer street festivals, the event features a wide range of activities that promote community while maintaining social distancing standards. Wear your mask, keep proper social distancing, and participate in these community activities.” [Facebook]

Oakville Triangle Virtual Meeting at 6 p.m. — “The third online engagement opportunity will include a live presentation by the applicant via a Zoom meeting on Thursday, May 7 beginning at 6 p.m. where the community may ask questions directly in the online forum. A link to the virtual meeting can be found below and will also be posted to the project website with accompanying materials prior to May 7. A recording of the meeting and an online feedback portal for community comments will be posted to the project website following the live presentation.” [City of Alexandria]

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Last month, Alexandria residents and city leaders honored the legacy of Joseph McCoy by placing a wreath at the location of his lynching at the corner of Cameron and Lee Streets in Old Town. Within 36 hours, that wreath was stolen, and on Saturday a group of determined residents placed a new wreath at the site.

“Mr. McCoy was killed, murdered, by the act of hate,” MacArthur Myers told ALXnow. “We can’t bring him back, but we can be a voice for him from now on. God has given us two powerful words to express emotion — hate and love. Let the healing begin with love, which is so much more powerful.”

More than a dozen residents attended the brief ceremony. The 19-year-old McCoy was arrested without a warrant and then murdered 123 years ago, on April 23, 1897, by a mob of white residents who stormed the Police House (now City Hall), where McCoy was being held after being accused of sexually assaulting three women. He was shot, stabbed and hanged from a lamppost.

McCoy’s death is one of two lynchings that took place in Alexandria. The other was 20-year-old Benjamin Thomas, who was shot to death and hanged the following year by a mob of residents at Fairfax Street near King Street.

No one was arrested for their deaths.

McCoy and Thomas have been included in the Equal Justice Initiative Community Remembrance Project. Their names have been added to a steel pillar representing lynchings that occurred in the city — just one of more than 800 pillars representing 4,743 terror lynching victims around the country.

Since last year, the city has been in the process of bringing its EJI pillar home from Montgomery, Alabama.

A week ago we marked the 123rd anniversary of the lynching of Alexandria teenager Joseph McCoy. We placed a wreath at…

Posted by Maddy McCoy on Saturday, May 2, 2020

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Morning Notes

T.C. Senior Wins $40K Scholarship — “What does it feel like to get a SURPRISE ZOOM CALL from U.S. Senator Mark Warner, Lisa Collis, and daughters Gillian, Eliza & Madison…telling you that you are the first recipient of the Collis Warner Family Scholarship worth $40,000? Just ask T.C. Williams High School Senior Foziya Mohammed! Mohammed received the call this afternoon…’I am shocked and excited! I was nervous I thought this was a call about some kind of problem with my scholarship application. I’m not nervous anymore! Thank you so much. I would tell all of the younger students at T.C. that hard work pays off!'” [Facebook]

Police Respond to Domestic Violence Service Call — “The Alexandria Police Department is investigating a weapon violation in the 1400 block of South Highview Lane. A helicopter is assisting and expect police activity in the area.” [Twitter]

Local Reporter Gets Coronavirus Test — “To my surprise, the ER wasn’t crowded and I got in fast. With the social scene dead, the emergency room would be the most interesting thing I’d do that week. I kind of like the ER. You’re waited on, there’s a lot of hustle and bustle, and you generally feel you’re safe. Although this time was slightly different. The nurse wore a hazmat suit.” [Zebra]

Hops N Shine Hosting Virtual Beer Tasting Tonight — “This will be a Zoom meeting broadcast onto Facebook live for all to see. We welcome you to join us on Zoom to chat about how things are going for breweries, cideries, and restaurants around town, or if you just want to watch you can check it out on Facebook.” [Facebook]

T.C. Seniors Make Fox 5 DC Appearance — “T.C. Williams High School seniors TJ Horton & Amiya Chisolm on Fox 5 DC with Principal Balas this morning talking about the Titan #Classof2020 documentary we’re making. Don’t miss out – record your stories this Friday, May 1!” [Facebook]

New Job Posting: Virtual Insurance Agent — “The Financial Crisis Prevention Center is seeking highly motivated Benefits Analysts to meet with federal employees about their retirement benefits, supplemental insurance, annuities, and fringe benefit discount programs. Hiring immediately part-time and full-time sales representatives. Licensed and unlicensed positions available.” [Indeed]

Carpenter’s Shelter Gets Face Mask Donation — “Thanks to Elegance By Roya Bridal – Alexandria for these beautiful masks made by their atelier and donated to the shelter for the protection of our residents. We are appreciative of your, and all of our donor support for needed items such as masks, Clorox cleaning wipes, and sanitizer.” [Facebook]

Oakville Triangle Plan Comment Deadline is Today — “As a reminder, the online feedback portal for the applicant’s second online engagement posted on April 16 will remain open through tomorrow, April 30. Please take a few minutes to view the second presentation and provide comments.” [City of Alexandria]

Del Ray Cakery Makes Flower-like Cookie Bouquets — “Mother’s Day bouquets! 3 choices DM if interested. $15 each.” [Facebook]

There’s a 500-Piece Lee Fendall House Museum Jigsaw Puzzle — “Feeling PUZZLED about how to spend your time? How about a springtime image of Lee-Fendall House? These 500-piece puzzles are $18, and all proceeds support our preservation and education work. Message us on Facebook, email [email protected]g, or call (703)548-1789 to place your order and arrange for contactless pickup, local delivery (within 1 mile of the museum), or shipping (at cost).” [Facebook]

Old Town Book Club Goes Online This Saturday — “In this captivating story of crisis and survival, Emily St. John Mandel takes readers through often hidden landscapes: campgrounds for the near-homeless, underground electronica clubs, the business of international shipping, service in luxury hotels, and life in a federal prison. Rife with unexpected beauty, The Glass Hotel is a captivating portrait of greed and guilt, love and delusion, ghosts and unintended consequences, and the infinite ways we search for meaning in our lives.” [Old Town Books]

Alexandrian Creates Haiku Contest for Sister’s 70th Birthday — “Poring over the poems was the closest they were going to get to a family reunion. They picked their three favorites and sent the entire batch to the family to enjoy.” [Washington Post]

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Several Alexandria organizations collaborated virtually to memorialize the 1897 lynching of Joseph McCoy.

McCoy was murdered by a lynch mob today (April 23) in 1897 at the corner of Lee and Cameron Streets in Old Town. Today, Alexandrians placed a wreath at the site of the killing to honor McCoy.

Today I had the honor of helping to place this wreath in memory of Joseph McCoy. He was lynched on the SE corner of…

Posted by Maddy McCoy on Thursday, April 23, 2020

The dedication is part of a broader effort by Alexandria to bring the city’s history of racial violence to light as part of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).

“Alexandria exists because of the incredible history that has occurred in our community,” Mayor Justin Wilson said in a video. “Over recent years we have worked very hard to ensure a more just, complete, and equal telling of our history ensuring that future generations learn from the good and the bad. It’s those principles that have guided our participation in the Equal Justice Initiative’s Community Remembrance Project, to ensure that the stories of the two violent race lynchings that occurred in our community is something we can learn from in generations to come.”

A city proclamation told the story of the lynching.

McCoy, a teenager, was accused of sexually assaulting three women in Alexandria, according to the proclamation. He was arrested without a warrant and denied the charge. He was held in what is today City Hall. McCoy reportedly confessed to the crime after interrogation. A mob gathered but was repulsed, and at 1 a.m. a second attack overwhelmed the officers at the station. McCoy was pulled from his cell and dragged to the corner. The Washington Post at the time said McCoy was left hanging from the lamp post for 15 minutes before he was cut down. He was pierced by several bullets and struck in the head with a cobblestone.

Another lynching, of a man named Benjamin Thomas, occurred a few years later in Alexandria. Both names are on a pillar created by the EJI Community Remembrance Project that commemorates the victims of lynching. Eventually, the city plans to bring the pillar from Alabama up to Alexandria to be placed in a prominent location.

KaNikki Jakarta, poet laureate of Alexandria, wrote a poem to commemorate McCoy.

Black Boy
Born to Ann and Samuel as Reconstruction ended
And the era of Jim Crow started
Left many family members broken hearted
Before his life as a man officially began
A sorrowful trend amongst black families
Tugging on heart strings to rejoice or weep
when black boys are birthed
A blessing and a curse on a family tree
Because we’re never sure if someone will kill you
And write you down in history untrue
After accusing you of crimes like
Assaulting someone white
Talking back to someone white
Looking at someone white
Whistling at someone white
Despite putting up a fight or screaming a denial
You might get a trial
But it will be unjust
Although you initially denied it all
I think you thought it was best to confess…
This is not a history that belongs to you alone
And if you would have grown
Just a bit older
You may have cried on someone’s shoulder
Two years later over another black boy named Benjamin Thompson
Who shares this story too
I wish I could talk to you
I would ask you what really took place
I wish I could look upon your face
to hear your story
The way that you would have it told
The way that circumstances would unfold
On April 23, 1897
Truth is, I want to pen your story
But the newspapers don’t show
What happened all of those years ago
But this is what I know…
You were born Joseph McCoy
You had four siblings and you were the youngest boy
And before you were ever thought to be
Your grandmother Cecilia McCoy was born free
More than a half century
Before you were lynched
Hanged from a lamppost and shot multiple times
No family members would claim your body
And no one was ever charged with a crime
But, this is not the part of your story that I would want to tell
I don’t want to recap the horrible night a mob of 500 retrieved you from jail
I don’t want to write about your how your funeral was held
Instead,
I would like to highlight
That despite the fact you didn’t celebrate your 21st birthday
Today,
123 Years Later
You are celebrated
You are remembered
A legend, a light
Shining bright
even in your absence
An ancestor whose story far surpassed the details of your death
A part of history that will let in peace be the way you rest
No one remembers the names of the people who took your life
They don’t get glory for spreading bitterness and strife
But you
Joseph McCoy
A black boy
Born to Ann and Samuel as Reconstruction ended
And the era of Jim Crow started
Whose death left many family members broken hearted
Before his life as a man officially began
A horrific trend
In black history
Another tragedy
But your history will be one remembered alongside
Others who were also lynched, shot, or hanged
But we will remember your name
Because your history is within my pen now
Within my words now
A black writer
Who decided to write about you in a positive way
But still today
We are left with the question
Who could you have grown to be?
If they would not have killed you

McCoy’s funeral was held at Roberts United Methodist Memorial Church. James Daniely, the current pastor at the church, offered a prayer in McCoy’s honor.

Photo via City of Alexandria

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There were years of debate and lobbying, Alexandria finally has state authorization to move the Appomattox statue in the middle of the S. Washington Street and Prince Street.

The statue has defenders who say that the statue should not be moved at all. The placement in the center of the street represents the spot where Alexandrians gathered to leave the Union-occupied Alexandria and join the Confederacy. The statue also, pointedly, faces away from Washington D.C. and to the south. While many of the statues being removed across the south glamorize the southern cause, defenders of the statue note that the pose was more solemn.

Opponents of the statue’s location argue that it presents both a traffic hazard and is part of a broader legacy of celebrating both the slavery-supporting Confederate States of America and the lost cause mythos that frequently comprised the bulwark of opposition to the Civil Rights Movement.

Plans approved in 2016 suggested moving the statue to the lawn of the Lyceum, a historical museum that sits at the same intersection. The city lacked the authority to move the statue at that time, but Mayor Justin Wilson said those plans for the statue still stand.

Still others have suggested that the public display of the statue still honors the Confederacy, with suggested alternative locations including the bottom of the Potomac River.

So with the statue’s future currently uncertain, do you think the statue should be moved? If so, where?

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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