The Museum of Public Relations.
The Alexandria Black History Museum
The Alexandria Black History Museum is located in the Parker-Gray district of the city. Staff and volunteers from citizen organizations interpret the contributions of African-Americans to Alexandria's history and culture. The building that today houses the center was constructed in 1940 as the Robinson Library, the African American community's first public library. With desegregation in the 1960s, the building was converted to use for community service programs.
The Alumni Association of Parker Gray School and the Society for the Preservation of Black Heritage, Inc., reopened the building in 1983 as the Alexandria Black History Museum and provided the staffing. In 1987, the City Council placed the operation of the center under the direction of the Office of Historic Alexandria and provided funds for an addition to the building, which was completed in 1989.
The center presents lectures, tours of the center and other activities relating the history and accomplishments of African-Americans in Alexandria. Paintings, photographs, books and other memorabilia document the African-American experience in Alexandria and Virginia from 1749 to the present. The center has a special collection on the history and graduates of the Parker-Gray School.
The museum seeks objects and materials on the history of the African-American community in Alexandria as well as the community's African heritage. Docent or behind-the-scenes volunteer opportunities are available.
The Watson Reading Room
Located next door to the Alexandria Black History Museum, the reading room is a non-circulating research repository focusing on issues of African-American history and culture. Black History Museum staff and volunteers are available to work with scholars of all ages on their questions about African-American history.
The Watson Reading Room is named in honor of Charles and Laura Watson, early African-American land owners in Alexandria. Laura Watson established the Sunnyside community with her sons, using land bequeathed to her by her husband in 1874. The Sunnyside community, located in what was then the Jefferson County district of Alexandria, flourished as an African-American housing development.
In 1992, following the wishes of Sunnyside residents, funds from the terminated Sunnyside Home Ownership Assistance Program were used to pay for the construction of the Watson Reading Room, providing a site for a research facility that would educate all Alexandrians about the contributions of African Americans.