'Freedom's Fight in Alexandria'
Story by Jeanette Wages
History has never been the story of one person or group of people. It is the story of humankind. Yet for many years, the narrative has remained one-sided. History has been written by the winners of wars, the people in power or those with the ‘luxury’ of an education. Today, we are able to start piecing together the patchwork quilt of history through untold stories.
When City Councilman and 3rd generation Alexandrian, John T. Chapman, was asked about the availability of tours depicting African and African-American history in Alexandria, he had to take pause. Nothing came to mind. Chapman, who grew up visiting museums in the area and participating in the city parades, couldn’t recall any African-American history before the Civil Rights movement. Beyond the obvious blind spot of a piece of history that helped create the city of Alexandria, he also realized our city was missing out on a major stream of revenue.
In his search for information, he stumbled upon a pamphlet for The Courageous Journey, a walking tour that featured the African American history that shaped Alexandria and the United States. The tours, created by the City of Alexandria, launched on September 10, 2011. But as we all know, the world shifted its focus on the very next day on 9/11 and the pamphlet was set aside and forgotten. That was until Chapman dusted it off and began making plans. 'I took the framework of The Courageous Journey and spent weeks in the ‘Special Collections’ section of the Barrett Library. I searched for any story that could help bring life to the tour.'
In 2016, Manumission Tours took its first historical stroll. The company began with one walking tour, Freedom’s Fight in Alexandria, and has grown into three tours since then, including one bus tour. Chapman works tirelessly to ensure his tours are fun, educational and inclusive. “All history is important regardless of perspective,” he says.
1. release from slavery.
'a leading advocate of manumission'
Underground Railroad Tour
Edward Stabler, apothecary, founded the shop in 1792 at the corner of King and Fairfax Streets. In 1796, he moved his operation to 107 S. Fairfax. Stabler, a Quaker, was a known abolitionist and often used his own money to purchase slaves for the purpose of setting them free.
Freedom’s Fight in Alexandria Walking Tour
Freedom’s Fight in Alexandria is a 90-minute, guided walking tour through the streets of Old Town. It provides participants with insight into Alexandria's pre-civil war history of urban slavery. The tour highlights the stories of runaway slaves, including step-brothers Oscar and George Ball, free African-Americans like Moses Hepburn and early abolitionists, such as pharmacist Edward Stabler, who pushed back against the 'Peculiar Institution' of slavery.
Duke Street Black History Walking Tour
This 90-minute guided walking tour along the Duke Street corridor in Old Town Alexandria visits sites connected to the early Alexandria slave trade, including the former site of Franklin & Armfield, the former Bruin Slave Jail site that held the Edmonson sisters, as well as sites that connect to early African American’s spirituality, including Shiloh Baptist Church and the Alexandria National Cemetery. Entry into the Freedom House Museum is separate from our tour and not covered by Manumission Tour Company.
Black History in Alexandria Bus Tour
Manumission also provides offers bus tours, which include a guide to provide a 2-hour guided tour. Participants will have the opportunity to visit numerous local sites of historical significance for African-Americans, including the Freedom House Museum, Alfred Street Baptist Church, the site of the 1939 Library Sit-In. Tourists will disembark the bus to walk the Contraband & Freedmen Cemetery, as well as walk inside the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church. A portion of the tour can also be conducted as a one-hour tour. Entry fees at Alexandria Black History Museum and Freedom House Museum are not covered by Manumission Tour Company.
Manumission Tours curates Alexandria African American heritage tours catering to the socially-conscious day tripper.