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, and are now focusing on churches. Several have received attention lately with the erection of a State Highway Marker.
Yesterday we looked at Roberts Memorial United Methodist Church at 606 S. Washington Street. Today we walk three blocks northward and lend our eyes to Beulah Baptist Church (320 S. Washington).
Once again, the story is a lesson in Civil Rights. Like Roberts Memorial United Methodist Church, Beulah Baptist is on the National Register for Historic Places. The two have in common a significance of education and civic importance. One of the teachers at Beulah Baptist was Sarah Gray (1846-1893), who distinguished herself as a founder of schools, teacher for many years and principal at Hallowell School, the city’s first public school for African American girls.
We probably don’t think of Buelah’s story as part of Reconstruction, but it was. The joys of freedom for the formerly enslaved and their families were perhaps expressed more poignantly in churches than anywhere else.
Beulah Baptist Church
African Americans escaping slavery found refuge in Alexandria after Union troops occupied the city in 1861. The Rev. Clement “Clem” Robinson established the First Select Colored School in 1862. Hundreds of students registered for day and evening classes and for courses at the associated Beulah Normal and Theological Institute. In Oct. 1863, Robinson organized Beulah Baptist Church, the first African American church founded in Alexandria after Union occupation. The congregation constructed its brick sanctuary here on the edge of the African American neighborhood known at The Bottoms. The school then moved to this site, and education remained central to Beulah’s mission.
Department of Historic Resources, 2015.