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Duke Street Black History Walking Tour

Manumission Tour Company

Alexandria, Virginia

Kevin Burkman, SSAAM Trustee, August, 2020

On Saturday, August 15, 2020, SSAAM board member Kevin Burkman attended the “Duke Street Black History” Walking Tour in historic Alexandria, Virginia, sponsored by the Manumission Tour Company.

The tour was led by John Taylor Chapman, founder of the Manumission Tour Company, a fourth generation Alexandrian and member of Alexandria City Council. Alexandria is steeped in African American history and culture, dating back to the city's founding in 1749, and the tour  focuses on the Duke Street corridor in Old Town,  where we visited sites connected to the early Alexandria slave trade, the community’s spiritual side, and one of the nation’s first national cemeteries.

SSAAM highly recommends you join John on one of the tours, the next time you are in the D.C. area. Please click here for more information.

Some of the sites on the tour included:


Shiloh First Baptist Church: Founded in 1863, by contraband slaves who escaped to Union-held Alexandria,  during the entire Civil War (1861-1865).


Franklin and Armfield Slave Office: Built in the early 1800's as a residence, this building soon became known as one of the most notorious slave offices in the country; from 1828-1861, thousands of slaves passed through this site, on their way, many times by foot, to slaveholders in Mississippi and Louisiana.


Our tour guide John Taylor Chapman Franklin :  John founded Manumission Tour Company in 2016, which provides curated heritage tours focusing on the stories of early African Americans in Alexandria. He is a strong advocate for historic preservation in Alexandria and small business development. 


Edmonson Sisters Sculpture: Became celebrities in the United States abolitionist movement after gaining their freedom from slavery. On April 15, 1848, they were among the 77 slaves who unsuccessfully tried to escape from Washington, DC on the schooner The Pearl, sailing up the Chesapeake Bay to freedom in New Jersey.


Alexandria National Cemetery: One of the original national cemeteries that were established in 1862.  It served as the burial grounds for mostly Union soldiers who died in the numerous hospitals around the Alexandria area, including hundreds of United States Colored Troops. By 1864, it was almost filled to capacity, leading to the development of the nearby Arlington National Cemetery. 


L'Ouverture Hospital: Built in 1863, L’Ouverture opened in February 1864 for African American troops and contraband civilians . It was named for Haitian revolutionary leader Toussaint L’Ouverture. Buildings included barracks, cookhouse and mess room, linen room, office, sutler’s store, deadhouse, and a dispensary.


African American Heritage Park:Includes a one-acre 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." This formation acknowledges the contributions of African Americans to the growth of Alexandria. 

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