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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

Alexandria oral history program -- Alexandria legacies

Repository: Alexandria Archaeology Museum

Collection Description (CRHP): The Alexandria Legacies Oral History Program is a collaborative project between the Archaeology Museum, the Black History Museum and the Lyceum -- all of which are museums owned and operated by the City of Alexandria under its Office of Historic Alexandria (OHA). The originals of the recordings/documents are generally housed in the Archaeology Museum. There may be multiple copies of the same interviews in all or a couple of the museums. The Alexandria Black History Museum often does interviews related to exhibits or research projects that they are working on independently, but all the museums are under the umbrella of the City's OHA. For more information on the Alexandria Black History Museum, see the repository record on it in this database. Both the Archaeology Museum and Black History Museum should be contacted by researchers interested in oral histories on African Americans and the civil rights movement in Alexandria.

In the Archaeology Museum, the total physical collection, as of October 30, 2010, takes up approximately 7 filing cabinets (each cabinet is about 2 feet, 2 inches in length). In these cabinets, there are approximately 160 interviews (or roundtable discussions where a number of individuals were gathered and recorded discussing their memories freely and together). The majority are on audio cassettes. There are approximately 15 videocassettes. Neither the audiocassettes nor videocassettes have been digitized. And, not all have been transcribed though staff members are working on it. About two years ago, the project purchased digital recorders; with there are 14 digital recordings of recent interviews.

The project has oral histories that specifically recall aspects of growing up in Alexandria's African American neighborhoods or attending the Parker Gray School, but they may not explicitly discuss issues of Civil Rights or race relations. For transcribed oral histories that discuss growing up and living in Alexandria's African American neighborhoods and/or attending the Parker Gray School.

As of November 2010, the project is ongoing and continuously adding to the website transcripts of past interviews -- thus, there are more past interviews not yet on the web (or transcribed) that likely discuss civil rights, race relations, and/or African American life.

Collection Description (Extant): The City of Alexandria's Archaeology Museum first began conducting oral history interviews in 1982 through a grant received for its 'Alexandria African American Neighborhood Project.' Oral histories became an important component of the Neighborhood Project as a result of the museum's quest for information about the history of Alexandria's African American communities. Pamela Cressey, City Archaeologist, credits Harry Burke, a native Alexandrian, with introducing her not only to the value of personal memories, but also to both Mrs. Knapper and Mrs. Lee, each of whom provided rich and varying stories about growing up as an African American in Alexandria at the turn of the century . . . .

The Office of Historic Alexandria has continued to record oral histories of those who grew up in Alexandria's various neighborhoods. In the 1990s, oral histories associated with black history of the Fort Ward and Episcopal Seminary areas were recorded by Patricia A. Knock for the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. More recently, oral histories associated with the World War II housing complex Chinquapin Village, as well as the annexed neighborhood of Del Ray have been collected too.

Collection URL:

Digital Status: Partial

Extent: approximately 7 filing cabinets (each cabinet is about 2 feet, 2 inches in length)

Language: English

Related Archival Items: The Alexandria Black History Museum has in its collection a film made on a 1939 sit-in at the Alexandria public library that draws on oral histories of various people involved. The documentary is titled 'Out of Obscurity,' but the museum does not have the raw footage. The Alexandria Public Library has additional information on the local civil rights movement, including the 1939 sit-in.

Interviewees: Courtney Brooks, Mabel Lyles, Gilbert Mays, Maudy Mays, Edmonia Smith McKnight, Charles McKnight, Helen Miller, Elsie Thomas, Natalie Vaughn, Buster Williams, Elizabeth Douglas, Maydell Casey Belk, Julia Bradby, Mabel Burts, Dorothy Hall Smith, Barbara Ashby Gordon, Mary Crozet Wood Johnson, Virginia Knapper, Mable Lyles, Charles McKnight, Edmonia Smith McKnight, Helen Miller, Elsie Thomas, Lee Thomas Young

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights


African American neighborhoods
African Americans--Civil rights--Virginia
African Americans--Education--Virginia
Alexandria (Va.)
Civil rights movements--Virginia
Virginia--Race relations


Sound recordings


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   September 26, 2018
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