Alexandria’s African American history is told through an online StoryMap and can be experienced in-home on your computer or on your smartphone as you walk the trail along the Potomac River. The walking trail lasts about 45 minutes at a leisurely pace. This webpage presents more in-depth information about the stops highlighted in the StoryMap.
Even before the founding of the City of Alexandria in 1749, Africans and their descendants, enslaved and free, have lived and worked along the waterfront, making significant contributions to the local economy and culture. In the 1820s, Alexandria became home to the largest domestic slave trading firm, which profited from the sale and trafficking of enslaved African Americans from the Chesapeake to the Deep South. The Civil War revolutionized social and economic relations, and newly freed African Americans found new job opportunities as a result of the waterfront’s industrialization. The Potomac River played an important role in leisure activities too, including picnicking, boating, and fishing, much as it does for Alexandrians and visitors today.
We envision the African American Heritage Trail as comprising several interconnecting routes in the City of Alexandria. Together, these trails illuminate the history of the African American community over a span of several centuries. The North Trail Route is the first in a series of trails covering the waterfront. The African American Heritage Trail Committee created this walking tour through history, with the support of the Office of Historic Alexandria.