Hi everyone! Happy end of the semester!
For my final project, I created a StoryMaps site (linked here) mapping Alexandria, Virginia’s historically Black neighborhoods and communities. I also included a timeline on my site chronicling the city’s history, particularly noting its roles during wars.
Alexandria has a long history dating back before the American Revolution as a port city created to rival Baltimore as the area’s primary trade center. The city’s rich history also includes the creation of several free Black communities along the historic wharf, which grew in prominence during times of conflict. During the 1970s, Alexandria experienced vast gentrification as part of the city’s goal of becoming a tourist destination and historic area away from the bustle of Washington, D.C. As a result, these communities have largely been displaced due to rising housing prices as well as redevelopment. Information online about these historic communities is largely hard to come by, and there are no interactive maps available to show the locations and history of where these neighborhoods once were. That’s where my project comes in!
This project was research-heavy, particularly in finding the locations and backgrounds of each community. As I discovered more about these neighborhoods, I realized the importance of historical events in the creation of Black communities. For example, the Black communities of Petersburg and Grantville were founded by people escaping slavery during the Civil War who found safety in Union-occupied Alexandria. Because of the importance of history to community foundation, I included the timeline for greater context on Alexandria’s role during particular historical events such as the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. I also color-coded neighborhoods on the map; warmer colors represent older communities, while cooler represents newer, 20th-century communities that rose up against the backdrop of housing segregation.
Overall, I am pretty proud of the work I did on this project and feel I learned a lot in this class! I especially see the need for digital history in telling largely forgotten histories. By creating sources such as these, these histories are illuminated to a larger audience to discover and learn from.