Freedom House Museum – A Place for Reflection
By Lani Gering
I have lived in Alexandria since the spring of 1992 and in that time I have obviously learned much about the deep history that our fair city is steeped in but until a couple of months ago I didn’t truly realize what a major part Alexandria played during the times of slavery. I am sure that the Crier’s History column author, Sarah Becker, has written a column about it sometime in these last 35 years but guess I wasn’t paying attention. It wasn’t until I attended a Chamber of Commerce event where Audrey Davis, the Director of the Alexandria Black History Museum, was the guest speaker that I became aware of the Freedom House Museum. It had gone through quite a renovation and was ready for visitors and she was getting the word out.
I finally made a visit to this amazing place on Duke Street the last week of January. It was a real eye-opener to say the least. It was an eerie feeling knowing that I was standing in a place that harbored such horrific events. I loved the Civil War period of my American History classes while in school and have always been appalled that slavery was even a “thing” but knowing the details of just how much a part Alexandria played has me bugged, however, history is just that…history. We can’t change it. All we can do is go forward and do better and that is what I believe we are trying to do.
I have listed the exhibits on each floor below and I encourage you to take a few extra moments on the 3rd floor in one of the Quiet Reflection spaces. There are nice chairs and sofas with amazing art on the walls in each space. I spent a few minutes there and tears came to my eyes as soon as I sat down.
I wasn’t able to stay as long as I would have liked but it is recommended that you allow at least an hour and a half for your visit. They recommend that, due to the sensitive nature of the content, children be at least 8 years old to visit. There are three levels and each level is accessible by either stairs or elevator and each floor has restrooms. Admission is $5 per adult, $3 per child (ages 5-12), and FREE for City of Alexandria Residents. Due to high demand and limited capacity, they highly recommend guests reserve tickets in advance and not purchase them at the door. https://shop.alexandriava.gov/Events.aspx
1315 Duke Street – The keystone exhibition centers the narrative on the stories of those who were brought from the Chesapeake Bay area, moved through 1315 Duke Street, and forced to slave markets in the deep South. In addition to personal experiences of individuals trafficked through the domestic slave trade, the exhibit includes archaeological artifacts and a model of the complex.
Determined – The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality – travelling exhibition from the Virginia Museum of History and Culture that traces four centuries of Black history in Virginia through stories of extraordinary individuals who struggled for equality and, in the process, profoundly shaped the nature of American society and the meaning of our collective ideals.
Determined in Alexandria – companion exhibition about Black Alexandrians that built the foundations of our community while fighting for equality.
Before the Spirits are Swept Away – paintings of African American sites by the late Sherry Z. Sanabria. This is a companion exhibition to another at the Alexandria Black History Museum.
Reflection Space with bronze maquette of the Edmonson Sisters by sculptor Erik Blome, a gift to Historic Alexandria from former City Manager Mark Jinks and his wife Eileen Jinks.
Freedom House Museum
1315 Duke Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
HOURS OF OPERATION
Thursday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Friday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday 1 to 5 p.m
Monday 1 to 5 p.m
Closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas.