We are celebrating Black History Month by publishing texts of historical markers in the Old Town and Parker Gray Historic District.
So far we have covered neighborhoods and individuals. Today we begin with a series of markers that touch on churches.
For the African American community, the importance of churches and congregations cannot be overstated. Historically, a church was more than a place of worship and community spirit. When the dark specter of fear filled a wandering soul, he or she could find help and shelter in the church. When the collective soul of African Americans hurt and ached over brutal violence and death, the church was always there as a place of help and healing. When organizers needed a place to rally the community, a church was the logical and best choice.
The black community in Alexandria takes great pride in its churches. The sometimes blind pace of progress has taken away some of its homes, peoples and communities, and other parts of the built community (if Queen Street between N. Henry and N. Fayette goes, then all is lost).
The great survivor in this story are the churches, which dot not only the Parker-Gray neighborhood and area, but also Old Town and beyond.
Our first stop is the Alfred Street Baptist Church. What a beautiful story it is. Not only does it have a grand past, its present and future are bright.
Alfred Street Baptist Church, Virginia State Highway Marker E 124, 301 South Alfred Street
Alfred Street Baptist Church.
Alfred Street Baptist Church is home to the oldest African American congregation in Alexandria, dating to the early 19th century. It has served as a prominent religious, educational, and cultural institution. In 1818, the congregation, then known as the Colored Baptist Society, began worship services here in the midst of the Bottoms, a free black neighborhood. By 1820 the church created its educational branch, providing religious and secular opportunities for both black children and adults. In 1855, free black craftsmen probably designed and built the brick church. Alterations to the building occurred in the 1880s and in 1994 the church constructed a new sanctuary.
Department of Historic Resources, 2003.