From left: MacArthur Myers; Krystyn Moon, Ph.D., University of Mary Washington; former Mayor Bill Euille; Councilmembers John Chapman and Del Pepper; the Rev. James V. Jordan, Third Baptist Church; and Dr. F.J. Pepper recognize the election of George Washington Parker, the first African-American councilman to serve Alexandria.
Alexandria History corrected itself Dec. 17 with a special recognition of George Washington Parker, Alexandria’s first African-American councilman, at Third Baptist Church, 917 Princess St.
City activist McArthur Myers presented a historical document to city leaders and clergy, certifying Parker’s election in Alexandria’s fourth ward in May 1870.
The event’s aim brings attention to both George Washington Parker and Alexandria’s African-American heritage as a whole. Written out of the history books, “Parker is a forgotten name,” said Myers. “He had a progressive mind …. Today, we’re bringing him back home.”
Parker, who died in 1873, was an active visionary during the Civil War and the post-Civil War Reconstruction period.
A mason of Universal Lodge #1 and the first documented clergyman of Third Baptist Church, Parker brokered a land acquisition of a church edifice around 1865 to accommodate a growing membership base, according to the church’s current pastor, the Rev. James V. Jordan. That site is where Third Baptist Church stands today.
An entrepreneur, Parker owned a hotel on Fayette and Payne streets and worked as assistant deputy U.S. Marshal for the U.S. Census in the Jefferson Township of Alexandria.
And, finally, as educator, Parker along with others like him taught former slaves and demanded equality along the way.
It would be approximately 100 years later before another African American, Ira L. Robinson, was elected to Alexandria’s City Council.
This is “especially meaningful for me following the footsteps” [of Parker], said Councilman John Chapman. “It [the document] will be placed in prominence to tell the story of firsts who led the city.”