"He was born April 3, 1928, in Alexandria, Virginia, in the shadow of Washington, D.C. From infancy into his early years as a professional basketball player, Lloyd lived under the yoke of legal segregation, or “Jim Crow.” As he is quick to recall, he did not have anything akin to a real conversation with a white man or woman until he went to his first training camp for the NBA." - Preface
Nicknamed the “Moonfixer,” Lloyd played for the Washington Capitals and the Syracuse Nationals, who won the NBA title in 1955.
If I’m not mistaken, the Alexandria Black History Museum sells his autobiography, "Moonfixer: The Basketball Journey of Earl Lloyd."
I am excited to announce I have begun work on a second edition of my book, “River to Rails: A Guidebook to Historical Markers in Old Town Alexandria Virginia.”
My stock, as well as those at the Alexandria museums and on the web, has dwindled down to just a few.
The second edition will include all the markers in the first edition, plus any new ones I find when I conduct a new survey in the coming months. I know of at least a half dozen new ones. The City is also installing new wayfinding kiosks on King Street. Every third one will contain historical info.
I will also include markers inside buildings. I thought about doing so in the first edition, but 225 markers was quite enough to try and manage.
I am also expanding my coverage. The first edition’s borders were the Potomac, Jones Point Park, the rails of Metro and Montgomery Street. Essentially, this is the greater definition of Old Town, which includes Parker Gray.
I will also be checking for markers that have been taken down/moved. It happened when I conducted my first survey in 2010. There was an interpretive sign at the water’s edge at Oronoco Bay. With a fading print, it covered the Chesapeake Bay watershed. It was taken down at some point, and not replaced.
Markers can also move. The one for the second Parker Gray School, which was located at the corner of Madison and N. Fayette, was attached to the brick archway near the Braddock Road Metro. It has been taken down. The desire is to move it a bit closer to the actual location.
Anyway, I will be hitting the streets once again. A self-imposed deadline is not certain, but my desire is late summer or early fall.
Wish me luck!
And now you have another good place to partake.
Del Ray Pizza is now open at 1401 Belle Haven Road, about a mile south of Alexandria.
Very good first impression – excellent slate of micro beers and "Paint It Black" from Pandora Radio rocking the scene.
The small building next door will serve ice cream starting around May.
Welcome Sean and crew, great re-hab of Pat’s Market, and you’ve brought a needed new option to New Alexandria and beyond.
It’s so easy to be a curmudgeon - the good ol’ days, nostalgia, selective memory, and programs such as "Back Story" are few and far between.
One aspect of our modern day lives that does seem to be getting worse is commercialism. I remember going to a minor league game several years ago. A batter couldn’t get around on a pitch fast enough, producing a souvenir into the stands. The next thing you know the PA is blaring - “Folks, that was the furniture store foul ball.”
In your face advertising has always been with us. One example is Alexandria Gazette. The newspaper, established in 1834, became the paper of record in the city. Through the years, variations on its name were:
Alexandria Gazette and Daily Advertiser
Alexandria Gazette and Virginia Advertiser
From the very beginning, their standard practice was advertisements filled page one, followed by three pages of news.
And the paper was no freebie. It costs money for a subscription.
For as long as anyone can remember, if one can’t afford the newspaper, there are ways to read it for free. Simply go to the Library.
Alexandria had a library beginning in 1794. For the next 140 years, patrons could use it, provided they forked over an annual fee of four dollars.
Finally, in 1937, the City picked up the tab. By then, the Gazette had shifted to scattered advertising throughout the paper and not on the front page. Of course, 1937 was just five years after the GW Parkway had opened up, sending cars streaming through the heart of Old Town.
Life in the city would never be the same…
“Would you rule out?”
Is it just me, or do you find annoying the recent predilection the media has right now with using that question?
I used to think Tim Russert was the only one who pulled that one out all the time.
The latest victim is MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. Reporters rightfully want to know how he will differ from Bud Selig, and are asking him to clarify his ideas about changes to the game.
But when you ask someone who is open to change, "Would you rule out, it's just so predictable. Most of the time, the response to the question is, no, I won’t rule it out. Then the headlines.
I'm reminded of Don Henley's Dirty Laundry.
When it's said and done
We haven't told you a thing.
Seems to me there's a better way.
How about, "What are the chances..?"
Today we reach the end of our looks at black difference makers who lived in Washington. For the final installment, I have prepared this map so we can see where some of these folks lived. My map certainly has its flaws, but I wanted a visual that has don’t been done before.
I cannot thank Sandra Fitzpatrick and Maria R. Goodwin enough. Their book, “The Guide to Black Washington,” provides us with the best look at the locations of the homes.
I also recommend a great short read on the history of black Washington by Sam Smith (“The Progressive Review, An Online Journal of the Alternative News & Information”). Summing up everything we have covered, he wrote:
Washington’s black community built a self sufficient and resilient alternative to the world from which they were barred.
The times we have looked at, the 19th century and into the 20th saw some great things done by black Americans. We must, however, temper our good feelings with the realization that it was no golden age for them.
Nevertheless, they marched on and made a better life for themselves, their family, their community and inspired others. This is a part of Washington’s history that tends to get ignored.
Prejudice, these great Americans have demonstrated time and time again, is best fought with education. I have certainly cleared out a few cobwebs, and I hope I have added a little something to the chalkboard...
Temperatures fall back down today, a return to a pattern of cold weather that has broken records all across the Eastern half of the country.
Yesterday, however, old man winter loosened his grip for one glorious day. 48 degrees, and suddenly we’re halfway to Miami.
Predictably, activity picked up on King Street in Old Town Alexandria. There on the corner with Union where Jamie Turner spellbinds gathering crowds with his glass symphony, and others of varying talents have tried to make a buck or two, stood Krista Clouse.
Mind you, like everyone else, we didn't know her. Her operatic voice, however, drew our attention.
Then, about two minutes later, she was behind me at the Starbucks.
I’ve learned to restrain myself when I’m in close proximity to famous people. Like that saying goes, they only owe us their performances.
But last year, at the very same intersection in Old Town, I came across Jordan Zimmerman, star pitcher with the Nationals, sipping coffee outside the Starbucks there at King and Union.
Showing that restraint, I didn’t say anything. But a few minutes later, I regretted it. He was chatting up a stranger like a long lost friend. I saw it in his eyes. He had been by himself, no checking the phone, no staying in his own world. He had wanted company and engagement.
So, there she was, the singer we had just seen and heard, just waiting, nothing in her hand, no hands off vibes.
“You have a glorious voice.”
“Mind if I take a picture.”
“Not at all.”
Like the mercury that climbed yesterday, it seems to me, Clouse, a native of Alexandria, is a rising star. Her audiences were vey small yesterday, but we bet they get much bigger in the coming months and years.
So far in our look at historical black figures in Washington, we have focused on 19th and 20th century individuals. Today our time machine takes us back to the 18th-century to find a fascinating figure whose journey in life could not have be more remarkable. Of the almost ten million people who arrived in America on a slave ship, he was one of just a few to be painted by a major artist. He also became a respected home owner and citizen in Georgetown.
Born in Guinea in 1736, Yarrow Mamout was brought to Annapolis Maryland from West Africa on a slave ship in 1752. The grandson of an African Muslim, he was enslaved to Samuel Beall of Maryland. Beall was a wealthy plantation owner who owned large tracts of land around what would become the city of Washington. When Issac Pierce built his mill in Rock Creek Park, one of Beall’s old wooden mills was located nearby.
According to James H. Johnston, author of “From Slave Ship to Harvard, Yarrow Mamout and The History of an African American Family,” Mamout was the most prominent African American in early Washington. He also made his own money by making bricks, loading ships, running a hauling business in Georgetown. In 1797, Mamout gained his freedom. He saved up and built a log cabin house near 34th and Wisconsin Avenue.
In 1819, Mamout made one of the greatest leaps in history when the famed Charles Willson Peale painted his portrait (hangs in the Georgetown Public Library). This was rare for an enslaved person. And it happened twice when James Alexander Simpson asked him to sit down in front of him.
When Mamout died in 1823, some newspapers published his obit. Obituaries for most African Americans were rare or they were very brief. Mamout’s was over 100 words.
Mamout’s log house is no longer there. It was replaced
by a wood frame townhouse. This house was demolished
in 2013 after a tree fell on it.
James H. Johnston, author of “From Slave Ship to Harvard, Yarrow Mamout and The History of an African American Family,” is organizing an effort to help archaeologist’s conduct searches at the lot in Georgetown. The potential is a gold mine.
Johnston makes the following points:
Colbert King wrote an article summarizing the latest.
“He pulled himself up by his bootstraps.”
If I had to choose one phrase that sums up the experiences of the black Americans I have been looking at, I’d say this one applies the most.
It’s really remarkable just how determined those on a mission were to not let obstacles, the kind you and I never had to face, get in their way.
One such individual, and in some ways the embodiment of all this, was Alexander Thomas Augusta. He became a surgeon, a Major during Civil War, the first African-American physician in Army, first black professor of medicine in U.S., and first African American appointed to the faculty of Howard U.
Born free in Norfolk in 1825, Augusta learned to read and write, despite the fact that the Virginia Revised Code of 1819 prohibited such activities for all blacks, enslaved or free. In 1840, he made his way to Baltimore where he found work as a barber. His desire to become a doctor was thwarted due to the discrimination against blacks. Undaunted, he went to the University of Pennsylvania and was taught privately. In 1856, he traveled north of the border to Toronto and continued his studies. After Augusta earned his Bachelor of Medicine degree there at Trinity College, he returned to the States in the early 1860s.
In 1863, with the Civil War raging, he was commissioned as a major in the Seventh U.S. Colored Troops. Augusta was promoted to Lt. Colonel, the first black to reach this rank, just one below Colonel. He became the Surgeon-in-Charge at the Contraband Hospital in Washington.
When blacks in Washington saw Augusta wearing his uniform, their hearts filled with pride. Others thought differently. While wearing his uniform in Baltimore, a mob attacked him in May 1863.
After the war, Augusta worked for Freedman’s Bureau in Georgia. He returned to Washington and set up a private practice.
In 1868, Augusta was hired Howard University. As one source points out, he was the first black to be offered a teaching position at any medical school in the United States.
He taught there for nine years. Along with Charles B. Purvis and others, they formed the National Medical Society of the District of Columbia. They fought for integration for many years. Eventually, the local whites only Medical Society of Washington allowed consultations with black doctors
Alexander Augusta fought for Civil Rights throughout his life. In 1868, he became a part of a landmark case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Catherine Kate Brown lived in Washington. On February 8, 1868, she took the Alexandria and Washington train to Alexandria. On the return ride, a policeman told her she could not sit in the ladies’s car. When she refused to move, he beat and threw her off the train. She got back on the train and made it to her home in the District.
Suffering from internal injuries, Brown went to see Augusta, who himself had been kicked off a streetcar in Washington in 1864. Senator Charles Sumner found out about it and introduced legislation to ban discrimination on public transport in the District. The measure passed in 1865.
Augusta treated Brown’s injuries and testified at her trial, a lawsuit she filed against the railroad company. The Supreme Court ruled on the case in 1873. They held that racial segregation on the line was not allowed under the charter and that white and black passengers must be treated equally.
Brown recovered from her injuries and continued to work for the Senate until 1881.
Alexander Augusta passed away at his home at 1319 L Street NW in 1890. A service was held at St John’s Church in Lafayette Square. Augusta’s remains were taken back to his home state of Virginia where was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors.
How appropriate that he was laid to rest there, a place where they know a thing or two about bootstraps.
His stone reads:
"Commissioned surgeon of colored volunteers, April 4, 1863, with the rank of Major. Commissioned regimental surgeon of the 7th Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops, October 2, 1863. Brevet Lieutenant Colonel of Volunteers, March 13, 1865, for faithful and meritorious services. Mustered out October 13, 1866."
Sources: “Prologue to Change: African Americans in Medicine in the Civil War Era” by Robert G. Slawson, MD, FACR, The NMCWM Press