Alexandria Black History Museum

The mission of the Black History Museum is to enrich the lives of Alexandria's residents and visitors, to foster tolerance and understanding among all cultures and to stimulate appreciation of the diversity of the African American experience.

Page updated on Mar 3, 2018 at 1:57 PM

The Alexandria Black History Museum includes the Museum, the Watson Reading Room, and the Alexandria African American Heritage Park. Other African American historic sites in Alexandria include the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial, and the Freedom House Museum.

Virtual Tour

Visit the Black History Museum, the African American Heritage Park and the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial on Google 360 virtual tours.


Alexandria Black History Museum is devoted to exhibiting local and regional history, incorporates the Robert H. Robinson Library as one of two exhibition galleries. The Robert H. Robinson Library was originally constructed in 1940 following a sit-in at the segregated Alexandria Library. Learn more about the Sit-Down Strike and the Robinson Library, the Parker-Gray School and the Alexandria Black History Research Center, and the Alexandria Black History Museum.


Watson Reading Room, established in 1995, provides an environment for learning about the diversity of African American cultural traditions. Located next door to the Alexandria Black History Museum, the Watson Reading Room is a non-circulating research repository focusing on issues of African-American history and culture.


Before the Spirits are Swept Away: African American Historic Site Paintings features 20 of Sherry Sanabria’s African American historic site paintings. These paintings are part of Sanabria’s “Sites of Conscience” series, which has as its focus African American heritage, prisons, concentration camps, and mental hospitals. The Sites of Conscience series takes viewers to places of horror, places of pain and suffering, places we want to forget, but never should.


African American Heritage Park is a nine-acre green space and wetland, and includes a 19th century African American cemetery. The focal point of the park is a sculpture group of bronze trees called "Truths That Rise From the Roots Remembered." The Park, located at 500 Holland Lane just south of Duke Street, offers a place for celebration, commemoration and quiet reflection.


Alexandria Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery, at 1001 S. Washington Street, served as the burial place for about 1,800 African Americans who fled to Alexandria to escape from bondage during the Civil War. A Memorial opened in 2014 on the site of the cemetery, to honor the memory of the Freedmen, the hardships they faced, and their contributions to the City.


The Freedom House Museum at 1315 Duke Street was once the headquarters and holding pen for the largest domestic slave trading firm in the United States, Franklin and Armfield. The building is currently owned by the Northern Virginia Urban League and together with the Office of Historic Alexandria, we invite you to visit the museum in this historic reminder of slavery.


The post-Civil War African American community known as The Fort is the focus of an effort by the Office of Historic Alexandria to study and preserve the post-Civil War historic resources of Fort Ward Park. Archaeological excavations, historical research, and oral histories highlight our growing knowledge of this community. Visit Fort Ward Park at 4301 West Braddock Road to see historic signage, and read the The Fort Heritage Trail Brochure  for more information.


Did you know that long before the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, the nation’s first “sit down strike” for racial justice occurred in Alexandria? On August 21, 1939, five African American men individually entered the segregated Alexandria Library building on Queen Street and requested library cards. When denied, each man calmly took a book off of a shelf to read. After two hours, the men were arrested for their act of “civil disobedience.” While this first act of defiance did not garner mainstream media attention, this action was the first step toward the City government considering a “colored” branch for its African-American residents and facing the issue of accessibility, however unequal, for all of its citizens.

Museum and Office Hours

Museum Hours 
Tuesday to Saturday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
Sunday and Monday: Closed 
Closed: New Year's Day, 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas

Office Hours 
Monday to Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and by appointment. 
Email the Black History Museum.

Museum Archives 
Open by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, contact the museum’s curators at 703.746.4356 or by  email.

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American Alliance of Museums
Accredited Museum