You may not have known that the Alexandria Black History Museum was established with many different purposes. Firstly, it is built to celebrate the African American experience in America, then to enhance the lives of visitors as well as Alexandria residents and finally to to create understanding and tolerance among different races and cultures. Certainly, the diverse exhibits will inspire the imagination about the lives and experiences of the African American community in Alexandria and Virginia, as well as African Americans in general for any visitor irrespective of their ethnicity.
The museum organizes tours of the museum, arranges lectures and engages in other activities with relevance to the accomplishments and history of African Americans in Alexandria. The museum’s collection includes paintings, books, photographs and other artifacts projecting the experience of African Americans in Alexandra and Virginia from the year 1749 to the present day.
The museum’s building is a valuable artifact in itself, including the earlier Robert Robinson Library which was once the Black public library during the era of segregation. The Robinson Library houses the permanent collection of the museum. In the year 1995 the museum opened the Watson Reading Room situated adjacent to the museum; this too is a historic site as the building was used as a church and early school for the Black community. An array of sculptures produced by famed sculptor and artist Jerome Meadows for the Alexandria African American Heritage Park are also an integral part of the museum’s collection.
The whole collection of the museum is very diverse and encompasses over 3,000 artifacts. Religious objects form an important part of the collection, with items like a century old pump organ utilized at a Baptist church in the region and a church bible of similar age attesting to the religious heritage of the people.
Original documents relating to the lives of African Americans such as those involving segregated schools, military credentials of Black soldiers and documents involving the history of Black organizations are another highlight.
Other notable categories including African objects such as wood carvings, a steadily evolving collection of photographs relating to their experiences and the Moss Kendrix collection, the documents of a groundbreaking Black public relations firm are other major categories of the collection.
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