Alexandria

Filed Under:DC, Virginia

Oscar-Winner "12 Years a Slave" is a Reminder of the Local Slave Trade

Scene in the slave pen at Washington. From the slave narrative of Solomon Northup, a free African American captured in Washington, DC, and enslaved for twelve years. Image date: ca. 1853.

Director Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, which won Best Picture at the 2014 Academy Awards telecast on Sunday, serves to highlight a horrific and shameful part of local history — the area's role as a transit depot and resale market for humans held in involuntary servitude.

For those who haven't yet seen it, the acclaimed film tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a free African-American violinist who in 1841 traveled from his home in New York to Washington, DC, with the promise of a high-paying job as a circus musician. He didn't know that his prospective employers actually were slave traders. 

Filed Under:Virginia

Remembering the Titans

The 1971 T.C. Williams football team photo. (Source: Chasing the Frog website)It's about time for my annual viewing of Remember the Titans. And fittingly so, since today is the anniversary of the 1971 T.C. Williams High School team's victory in the Virginia State High School championship game. Despite what you might remember from the Disney movie, which came out in 2000, the game was not close. There was no trick play in the final seconds to secure the victory. (Too bad -- Denzel Washington's "Fake 23 blast with a backside Georgia reverse" seemed to be quite a play. Maybe the Redskins should try it.)

As you might imagine, the fictional final play was not the only liberty that the movie producers took with this bit of our local history. But while some facets of the film were made up, it did illustrate some truths.

Filed Under:Virginia

Mary Custis Lee Challenges Streetcar Segregation

Mary Custis Lee in 1914, taken 12 years after her arrest. It appears she chose to travel by motor car this time. (Photo source: Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress)111 years ago today, Mary Custis Lee was arrested on an Alexandria streetcar for sitting in the section reserved for black patrons. As the daughter of Robert E. Lee, the General of the Confederate Army, the incident caused quite a stir within the community.

On her way to visit a friend, and being burdened with many large bags, Miss Lee chose to sit near the rear of the car in order to easily exit upon arriving at her destination. Shortly after she sat down the conductor Thomas Chauncey “explained the Virginia law on the subject, but being ignorant of the existence of the law herself, and also being loth [sic] to move her baggage, she protested.” At that time, Chauncey let her stay seated.[1]

Filed Under:Maryland, Virginia

Jim Morrison’s Not So Happy Homecoming

Poster advertising August 18, 1967 concert by The Doors in Annapolis and Alexandria. (Photo source: Ebay)It was the summer of 1967 and The Doors’ single “Light My Fire” was racing up the Billboard music charts. The band found itself headlining large venues and even made an appearance on American Bandstand. But one date on the tour schedule might have stood out to front man Jim Morrison more than any other. (Not that he would’ve told anyone.)

On August 18, 1967, the band played an odd D.C. area double-header: a 7:30pm show at the National Guard Armory in Annapolis, Maryland, and a late night show at the Alexandria Roller Rink Arena in Alexandria, Virginia. It was the only time The Doors played two separate concerts at different venues in the same evening. And, for Morrison, it was a homecoming of sorts.

Filed Under:Virginia

When the White House Was in Alexandria

Alexandria Police officers with President Ford in 1974.  (Photo source: Alexandria Police Association)Everyone knows that the President lives at 1600 Pennsylvania in Washington, D.C. But some locals may remember a time that wasn’t the case. For ten days in August of 1974, the leader of the free world lived in a relatively modest red brick and white clapboard house in Alexandria, Virginia and commuted to the Oval Office each morning.

You could say that things moved quickly for Gerald Ford in the ‘70s.

Filed Under:Virginia

Before He Was Broadway Joe

Joe Namath talks with Jets coach Weeb Ewbank during Namath's professional debut, August 7, 1965. (Source: Alexandria Gazette)So where do you think Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath made his professional football debut? Shea Stadium in New York? Wrong. Fenway Park in Boston? Wrong again. D.C. Stadium in Washington? Nice try, but no.

The correct answer is George Washington High School in Alexandria, Virginia. Say what? Yes, it’s true.

On August 7, 1965 Namath and the New York Jets played the Houston Oilers at GWHS in the first preseason game of the 1965 AFL season. The game was a charity benefit sponsored by Kena Temple, the local Shriners organization, and was wrapped into the city’s annual “Alexandria Days” summer festival.

Filed Under:DC, Maryland, Virginia

The Black Cone of Death

A tornado like this one ripped through the D.C. area on November 17, 1927. (Source: Library of Congress)On November 17, 1927 one of the fiercest storms our area has ever seen touched down near Old Town Alexandria. With winds estimated at 125 mph, it ripped through Alexandria, D.C. and Prince Georges County within minutes, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

Filed Under:Virginia

The Less-Known Unknown

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the Revolutionary War. (Photo by James A. DeYoung/Alexandria City website) Yesterday, we posted a story about the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington National Cemetery in 1921. Most readers are probably familiar with that memorial (and, if they read our post, they now know a little about its history). It is, after all, one of the most sacred places in the country.

But, what you may not know is that there is another Tomb of the Unknown just down the road in Alexandria, Virginia. In the burial yard of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House at 323 South Fairfax Street lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution. It is just seven miles away from its more famous counterpart, but light-years apart in the amount of attention it receives.

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