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Alexandria Library's First Black Family Reunion (2023)

Updated: Feb 13

On Saturday, April 29, Alexandria Library Director Rose T. Dawson welcomed everyone to the first annual Black Family Reunion.

While working on her husband's family reunion, Dawson received a call from former board member Gwen Day Fuller, sharing that she had visited the library's Special Collections to do some research on African American history in Alexandria and was unsuccessful. “We have letters from George Washington and Robert E. Lee, but when it comes to African American history, I admit it’s sorely lacking,” said Dawson.

Alexandria Library's Black Family Reunion was hosted on Queen Street in front of the Barrett Branch Library in Old Town and featured a joyful gathering of live music, games, food trucks, and more. The event attracted more than 400 of Alexandria’s African American families from across the City’s neighborhoods, and they brought their historical documents and photos to be preserved as part of the City’s historical record. 

More than 2,000 photos and documents had already been collected and scanned prior to the event.

The event could not have happened without the support of an anonymous donor along with help from honorary Co-Chairs Former Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille and genealogist Char McCargo Bah.

In his remarks, Euille mentioned that he grew up on Oronoco and Royal Streets, commonly known as “the Berg.” He said reunions are opportunities to “celebrate our history, our culture, our food and our music. That’s what we are doing here today.” 

A genealogist for 42 years, Bah rallied everyone to go back home and start digging for their historical treasures.

“If you don’t continue to tell your grandkids and great grandkids the story of your history, they will never know it. That’s the burden or charge we have today - to make sure that our kids know who we are, where we came from, our struggles, but also our accomplishments.”— Honorary Co-Chair Char McCargo Bah

Mayor Justin Wilson described the Special Collections archives as a nationwide resource used by researchers and he said the holes must be filled. “Talk to your family members, pull out those pictures and get them to us because it fills our history and helps tell a broader story of our City’s history.”

For more information on how to scan your own photos and documents, contact the Local History/Special Collections Branch at 703-746-1706.



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