On August 1, 1864, a number of people gathered at L’Overture Hospital, which spread out along the blocks of Duke, West, Prince and Payne streets in Alexandria. On the 30th anniversary of the British West Indies Emancipation, Harriet Jacobs gave an uplifting speech.
Yesterday, a number of people gathered at the site of the hospital. After a short program, Mayor Allison Silberberg unveiled a new Highway Marker for L’Overture Hospital at the corner of Prince and Payne.
Completed in February 1864, the hospital was named for Toussaint L’Ouverture (1743-1803), a self-educated liberated slave who led the Haitian Revolt.
Slave dealers had owned and occupied the site in Alexandria from 1835 until 1861, when the Union Army took control of the city.
The hospital cared for soldiers serving in the U.S. Colored Troops, as well as previously enslaved African Americans who had escaped to Alexandria (Interesting the marker does not use the term “contraband”).
As the marker points out,
In December 1864, more than 400 patients at the hospital led a successful protest demanding that USCTs be buried in Alexandria National Cemetery with full honors rather than being interred at the Freedmen’s Cemetery.
As part of the program yesterday, five members of the congregation’s choir sang a pair of spiritual songs.
The hospital consisted of a dispensary, cook house, Mess Hall, ward tents and the former slave pen which was used as a jail and freedmen’s housing.
More than 1400 soldiers were admitted between 1864 and 1865.
With this marker, there are now 16 State Highway Markers in Old Town and Parker Gray. Of the last six, five cover African-American history. This trend marks a remarkable turnaround in terms of public memory in the city.
We applaud the establishment of these markers, as the history of Alexandria is both one of black and white, and historically, probably more black than most realize.
African Americans in Alexandria had to work long and hard to achieve their goals of equality. In some ways, those efforts took a large step at L'Overture Hospital when those patients fought for the right to be buried in a dignified place. This marker proudly proclaims their victory, and helps us to better understand the Civil War and civil rights.