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Following History’s Footsteps

Modern Alexandria hides black history hotspots.

More than two decades ago, Pam Cressey, city archaeologist and director of the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, began leading tours of the city to highlight places important in black history. Despite the hovering rain clouds on Saturday morning, Feb. 4, more than 40 people joined this year’s tour. At each stop, Cressey’s personal narratives of the African slaves and their African-American descendants who lived in Alexandria exposed to tour participants the layers of history behind today’s townhouses.

Alton Wallace of the Alfred Street Baptist Church and Lillian Patterson of the Shiloh Baptist Church spoke to the group about their churches’ history. The Alfred Street Baptist Church hosts the oldest black congregation in Alexandria — before the church opened, blacks and whites worshipped together at First Baptist Church. Shiloh Baptist Church dates to 1863; it grew from the Old Shiloh Society which was formed by 50 former slaves in the early days of the Civil War.

The group met across from King Street Metro station, and Cressey’s tour led them down Duke Street, onto Payne and Alfred Streets, to the Alexandria National Cemetery and the African American Heritage Park on Holland Lane.