The Fort: A Post-Civil War African American Community
After the Civil War, a neighborhood known as The Fort grew up around Fort Ward, one of the Union forts built as part of the Defenses of Washington. But in the 1950s and 1960s, the City moved the residents out of the area to establish the Fort Ward Park and Museum. The City of Alexandria is working on an Interpretive Plan for Fort Ward Park to expand interpretation to include the full range of its history, especially including the African American experience and the post-Civil War Fort community. As part of this effort, archaeological investigations took place in the park between 2009 and 2014.
Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site Interpretive Plan
The goal of the interpretive plan is to expand interpretation in Fort Ward Park to include the full range of its history, especially including the African American experience and the post-Civil War Fort community. Fort Ward's Civil War history will remain a core theme, but new elements will explore the legacy of that pivotal era.
Memorializing and Preserving Sacred Areas
The Office of Historic Alexandria (OHA) is working with members of the Fort descendant community on two memorial projects in Fort Ward Park. One will commemorate the grave site of Robert W. Adams, located near that of his wife, community matriarch Clara Shorts Adams. A design for this head stone should be available in April 2022. Staff is also collaborating with the Jackson family on a concept design and text for a Jackson Cemetery memorial monument, which will acknowledge the legacy of original Fort landowner James Jackson, and the family members and others who were interred on his property at this site.
OHA staff is also in the process of researching vendor sources for permanent fencing around key burial areas in the Park, notably the Jackson Cemetery, Old Grave Yard and the Adams family plot. Public feedback from a Park walk and discussion about burial areas last summer, and subsequent conversations with Fort descendants, have favored a metal “hair-pin” fencing style that was typical of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Fort Heritage Trail
Read The Fort Heritage Trail Brochure, or request a printed copy by contacting the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. See a preview of The Fort Heritage Trail signage at the links below, or visit the sites in Fort Ward Park at 4301 W. Braddock Road.
- From Civil War to Civil Rights. A timeline of the African American community established here from after the Civil War and continuing into the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s.
- African Americans and the Civil War. Fleeing, fighting and working for freedom.
- Within Its Walls -- A Foundation for Education and Opportunity. The community's children were educated in the one-room "Colored School Building at Seminary" and later at the Seminary School for African Americans.
- The Oakland Baptist Church. Several members of The Fort were founders of the Oakland Baptist Church.
- The Oakland Baptist Church Cemetery. Originally a small family cemetery, the land was conveyed to the Oakland Baptist Church in 1939.
- The Jackson Cemetery. In 1884, James F. Jackson purchased the largest parcel in The Fort. The Jacksons later established a cemetery on part of the land.
- Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site
- Facebook page for the Ft. Ward and Seminary African American Descendants Society
The Virginia Theological Seminary and the African Americans of Fort Ward and “Seminary,” by Adrienne Terrell-Washington, with Research Assistant Magana Kabugi. Power point presented at the Virginia Theological Seminary and Fort & Seminary Churches, 2016. Manuscript can be viewed by appointment at Alexandria Archaeology.