Last year, Penny Post and Red Barn Mercantile donated over $25,000 to various nonprofits, most of them right here in Alexandria.
In celebration of Black History Month, we are continuing our "Good. Works. Wednesday." efforts. Every Wednesday in February, including today, we'll be giving 20% of our sales to Alexandria Black History Museum, an organization that works to enrich the lives of Alexandria's residents and visitors by fostering tolerance and understanding among all cultures and stimulating appreciation of the diversity of the African American experience.
The Alexandria Black History Museum includes the Museum, the Watson Reading Room, and the Alexandria African American Heritage Park.
The Museum has two galleries, Robert H. Robinson and Parker-Gray. Parker-Gray is named for the segregated African American school that was built in 1920 across the street from the Museum on Wythe Street. The Robert H. Robinson gallery is named for and located in the original structure of the segregated African American library that opened on April 24, 1940, less than a year after a sit-in at the whites-only Alexandria Library. The Robinson Library served the needs of African American Alexandrians, despite acknowledged, overcrowded conditions, until February 1959. That winter, the Alexandria Library quietly integrated for African American adults and high school students. Children continued to be served by the Robinson Library until July 1962, when the Alexandria Library was fully integrated. From 1962 until 1969, the Robinson Library served as the City’s Bookmobile Station. In 1983, the building was repurposed as the Alexandria Black History Resource Center. It underwent a complete renovation and extension from 1988 to 1989. In 2004, the Black History Resource Center was renamed the Alexandria Black History Museum.
The museum has grown dramatically since 1989. In 1995, two additional sites were added to the Museum. The Alexandria African American Heritage Park, a nine-acre park that preserves the site of a 19th-century African American cemetery, opened in June 1995. The Park is located several blocks away from the Museum. In October of 1995, the Watson Reading Room opened next door to the Museum. This non-circulating reading room houses the museum’s collection of books, videos, and periodicals on African American life and culture.
The Museum’s exhibitions address the African American experience in Alexandria and beyond. Through its lecture series and events, such as programming for Kwanzaa, Black History Month, Juneteenth, and its monthly Storytime for Young Historians, the Museum is a vibrant and respected resource for the local Alexandria community, researchers, and visitors to the City.
During the current physical closure of the Museum, the virtual platform has been a great vehicle for outreach. The Storytime for Young Historians program is updated monthly on the Office of Historic Alexandria YouTube channel. Two lecture series, a symposium, and a musical performance were presented virtually for Black History Month. The Museum has digitized parts of its collection and made them available to view through the Historic Alexandria Collections Online portal. Online exhibitions from the collection, as well as history pages about topics such as Juneteenth, Black History Month, Parker-Gray School, and Public Relations guru Moss Kendrix have been added to the Museum’s website.
The Moss Kendrix Collection, which is in need of conservation work, was recently named as an honoree in the Virginia Association of Museum’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts List for 2020. The Collection received over 3,000 votes in the People’s Choice Award, an award of $250 from VAM and several private donations totaling over $1,300. The Museum is still actively receiving donations toward the conservation of this amazing collection and its future exhibition.
In response to the tragic murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, the Museum launched a collecting initiative to record the local community’s feelings, thoughts, artwork, photographs, and objects. This material will help the Museum document the legacy of the community’s response to this tragedy and the wave of peaceful protests and vigils that followed. While the initiative is still active, and people can still donate via the online form at the ABHM’s website, the Museum staff have digitized the items collected to date and they will soon be available to view through the Historic Alexandria Collections Online portal.
Museum staff have also been busy processing the archival collections of Moss Kendrix and the opera singer Ben Holt, and finalizing a book entitled, Alexandria At War 1861-1865: African American Emancipation in an Occupied City, which is set to be published this spring.
The Museum’s Director, Audrey Davis, has also been a frequent virtual voice in numerous lectures, programs, seminars, and interviews for podcasts, television and radio, in the region and across the country, promoting the Museum, Black history, and as part of the Alexandria Community Remembrance Project in partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative.
Note: ABHM is currently closed, but we hope to open at the end of February 2023 with new exhibition called Preserving their Names: The Black Lives Remembered Collection
Before the Spirits are Swept Away: African American Historic Site Paintings by Sherry Zvares Sanabria (2017-present)
Past Exhibitions Include:
The Journey to be Free: Self-Emancipation and Alexandria's Contraband Heritage (2016 and 2019-2023)
Our Alexandria: The Sharon J. Frazier and Linwood M. Smith Dollhouse Collection (2018)
Securing the Blessings of Liberty: Freedoms Taken and Liberties Lost (2006 - 2016)
Sit Down and Take a Stand: Samuel W. Tucker and the 1939 Alexandria Library Sit-In. (2014)
Living Legends of Alexandria: African American Activists. (2014 and 2019)
African Encounters: Coast to Coast. (2013)
The Spirit of a Neighborhood Revisited: The Parker-Gray Community, 1985 -1986, Photographs by Carol G. Siegel. (2012)
In Black and White: Photography by Nina Tisara and Peggy Fleming. (2011)
Style and Identity: Black Alexandria in the 1970s. Portraits by Horace Day. (2010-2011)
Serving with Distinction. (2006)
Ways Your Donation Can Help:
Conservation of the Moss Kendrix Collection
Event or speaker for the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd
Future exhibitions (Moss Kendrix, Remembering Black Lives Lost)
Future programing (Juneteenth, Kwanzaa, Black History Month, etc.)
Learn more about this organization, check out their upcoming events, and be sure to shop on Wednesdays this month to show your support!