Mr. Josephus Lovelace’s Memories of Parker-Gray High School – Class of 1948

Joe Lovelace’s Retirement 1978

On April 23, 2023, Josephus’ oldest daughter, Wanda Lovelace Ned, informed me that her dad died last night at 11:40 p.m., in Colorado. He was 93 years old.

I am reissuing this blog article in tribute to my great uncle Joseph Lovelace.

Joseph and his mother moved to Alexandria, Virginia from Halifax, Virginia after the death of his father, Andrew Lovelace in 1943. He first attended Lyles-Crouch Elementary School for two and half months before entering Parker-Gray High School in September 1943. His family first lived on 325 North Fayette Street, then on 611 North West Street, and then they moved back to 325 North Fayette Street.

He has several fond memories of Parker-Gray. One time he was throwing snowballs when Mr. Pitts, the principal walked up behind him, and he elbowed Mr. Pitts in the stomach. That action got him into trouble. Other memories were about his favorite teachers, Mrs. Dorothy Key, the Librarian and Mrs. Edith W. Casey, the Social Studies and English teacher. Both of those teachers were his homeroom teachers.

Mr. Lovelace loved horsing around and chasing the girls in school. His friends in school were John Herring (Johnnie Cake), Herbert McGreer, Willie Daniels, Robert Burless, Lloyd Diggs (Class of 1949), Louise Gaskins, Suzanne Gaskins, Theresa Bentley, Katherine Lomax and Phyllis Roy.

He gives credit to his favorite teacher, Mrs. Casey who insulted him by saying, “Do You know what the letter ‘D’ stands for?” She continued to say ‘D’ stands for “Dumb”, like you. In addition, she told him in his senior year in school, that he will not graduate unless he recited “To Be or Not to Be.”

Joe Lovelace’s Military Group Picture

He graduated from Parker-Gray in 1948 and joined the Army weeks later. He kept Mrs. Casey’s comment in mind, which helped him to excel in everything he did. Mr. Lovelace had 30-years of combined service in the Army and the Air Force. He worked for 15-years with the United States Postal Service while attending College and obtained an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice. Mr. Lovelace was 48-years old when he started his undergraduate program; he completed his degree in three years. After retiring from the postal service, he worked for the police department as a counselor. At the age of 82, Mr. Lovelace volunteers at the Police Department in Colorado. His military career took him to foreign countries like Germany, Korea, England, France and Japan. He had lived in Germany, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Utah, and finally settled in Denver. The negative comment that Mrs. Casey made about Mr. Lovelace was the fuel he needed to accomplish all the things he achieved. Even today, he says that Mrs. Casey was his best teacher.

Alexandria Library Hosts Black Family Reunion to Enrich Archives and Preserve Community History

For Immediate Release: April 12, 2023

Alexandria Library is hosting its first-ever Black Family Reunion on Saturday, April 29, 2023. The event, at the Barrett Branch Library in Old Town, aims to bring neighborhoods together and help fill gaps in the documented history of Alexandria’s African American community.

African American families are invited to bring documents and images to be scanned and added to the Library’s Local History/Special Collections archive so they can be preserved as part of the City’s historical record.

“Word is getting out about this event and people are getting excited,” said Honorary Co-Chair and Alexandria Living Legend Bill Euille. “It’s a rare moment when our history and our future are meeting, right here in the present.”

“The value of the Black Family Reunion goes far beyond the historical images and documents that we will preserve because of this event,” said Honorary Co-Chair and Alexandria Living Legend Char McCargo Bah. “It is a vital step forward toward uniting the community through a more complete and accurate picture of our past.”

Honorary Co-Chairs and Alexandria Living Legends Char McCargo Bah and Bill Euille will get the party started at 11 am, followed by a proclamation delivered by Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson.

“Libraries, and especially local history archives, serve as part of a community’s shared memory,” said Library Director Rose Dawson. “Making sure that memory is complete is part of our job, and we take it seriously. And still, our Black Family Reunion is going to be about much more than just documents and photos. It will truly be a party! Games, music, food, and of course, friends and family getting together and having a great time.”

The event is free and open to the public. Donating to the archives is encouraged, but not required, and all attendees can enjoy music, games, food, and more. Contributors to the archive will receive a ticket good for a meal at one of the participating food vendors.

Early donations of photos and documents are now being accepted online. If you are unable to attend the Reunion or would like to donate early, please complete our online donation form and upload your materials directly to our Archive. This form may also be used to pre-register for in-person donations on the day of the Reunion.

What:              Alexandria Library Black Family Reunion

When:             Saturday, April 29, 2023, from 11 am – 3 pm

Where:            Kate Waller Barrett Branch Library

                        717 Queen Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

For more information about the event, please visit alexlibraryva.org/black-family-reunion. For media inquiries, please contact communications@alexlibraryva.org.


The Importance of Photos

When you look at old pictures of your family, you are giving a rare insight into their past. Whether these photos are of you, your siblings, your parents, your grandparents or many generations ago, you were taken back in time when life was simple.

Old photos tell you a story of life during happy moments or life during not so happy moments. Whatever the case might be, photos are a physical object of your history.  For African Americans, the value of old photos can be an insight into their unknown history. It can tell the person many stories that their family did not share with them. For example, old photos could show what a house and a neighborhood looked like long ago. Photos of old transportation systems like the train can give you an idea of what the rail system was like decades ago, as well as early automobiles. Pictures of organizations and civil groups can tell you stories of the individuals who are in those pictures, including their social circles.

214 Queen Street

In this 1933 picture of a house at 214 Queen Street, you can tell that the house was well used. This house has a story to tell. The 200 block of Queen Street in 1933 was a working-class white neighborhood. The occupation of the people in that neighborhood were fishermen, merchants, laborers, janitors and painters. Just looking at the picture can give a person a visual history of what life was like in 1933. The neighborhood racial makeup started to change in the 1950s when African Americans moved in.

On two other photos, the 19th Century picture is an 1865 Presidential railcar of President Lincoln that was on the tracks in Alexandria, VA’s Train Station. This railcar transported his body when he was assassination.

1865 Presidental Railcar

1941 Richmond Hwy.

The next picture is a 1941 picture taken during World War II in Alexandria on Richmond Hwy (US Hwy 1). This picture also shows tents and trailers. There was a housing shortage in Alexandria during World War II. This picture gives you a visual of what Richmond Highway was like in 1941.

1956 Boy Scouts

Lastly, a 1956 picture of the Boy Scouts. Their leader was Mr. Nelson Greene of Greene Funeral Home. The children are standing in front of the American Legion William Thomas Post #129.

It is important that your family pictures get included in an archive so that future generations can learn your history through the pictures that you left behind. Today, it is easier and less expensive for anyone to make numerous copies of photos and donate those photos to local institutions.

The Alexandria Public Library is helping you to preserve your family history. They are having an Alexandria African American Family Reunion on April 29, 2023. They want you to come and bring your pictures with you. The library will scan the pictures and return them to you. In addition, you will receive copies of your pictures on a flash drive. Click on this link for additional information: https://mailchi.mp/alexlibraryva/newsletter-1108914?e=117c38ecbf.

Char McCargo Bah is a published author, freelance writer, independent historian, investigative/genealogist researcher and a Living Legend of Alexandria.

Alexandria’s African American History

If you were visiting Alexandria in the 1950s, you would notice distinct African American neighborhoods like the Berg, Uptown, Hump and so on, but the history of African Americans in Alexandria remained unknown.  Due to the efforts of Lance Mallamo former Director of Office of Historic Alexandria (OHA), Gretchen M. Bulova, Director of OHA, Audrey P. Davis, Director of Alexandria Black History Museum (ABHM) and McArthur Myers, Alexandria 2020 Living Legend/Community Activist, the history and stories of early African Americans in Alexandria have become known.

One of Alexandria’s first national African American projects was the 2014 dedication of the Alexandria Freedmen Cemetery. Hundreds of descendants whose families are buried in the Freedmen Cemetery attended the weeklong events. The former Director of OHA, Lance Mallamo, initiated the weeklong celebration. That event was a turning point for many Alexandria’s African Americans who felt that their history had been forgotten. The event received national-wide coverage from newspapers to television media. Today, the Freedmen Cemetery still attracts tourists as well as Alexandrians. After Mallamo retired, Gretchen M. Bulova was hired in 2019 for Mallamo’s position.

Gretchen and Audrey

Bulova and Davis continue to reveal the rich history of Alexandria African Americans. Some of the projects included the purchase of the “Freedom House”, the former 19th Century Slave Pen from 1828 – 1861. The Freedom House is now a museum. Another one of the City’s projects is the Alexandria African American Heritage Trail that highlights the history of African Americans from the time Alexandria was founded to the 20th Century. In addition, OHA, ABHM and others assisted in getting Earl Lloyd’s Street sign. Earl was an Alexandrian who became the first African American National Basketball Association player.

Under the leadership of Bulova and Davis, the City joined the Equal Justice Initiative to find out whether the City of Alexandria had any history of lynching. Through the committees that OHA formed, they found out that two individuals were lynched in Alexandria. OHA immediately found the financial resources to hire experts to do further research about the two individuals, and to locate their descendants. OHA, some City employees, and the descendants of the lynched victim, Joseph McCoy, and some private citizens traveled in October of 2022 to Alabama. The party carried the soil from Alexandria where the lynching took place in 1897 and 1899 to Alabama. That event also brought national recognition to Alexandria.

Outside of OHA, a dedicated citizen has tirelessly committed his time to identifying historical sites that are associated with African Americans. McArthur Myers retired from the District of Columbia government in 2015. He advocated for fifteen historical signs at sites that are associated with the history of African Americans in Alexandria. His efforts in reclaiming Alexandria African American’s history speaks to volumes about his dedication to the City. He attends City Hall meetings, and he walks the streets of Alexandria identifying sites connected to African American history. Myers is very passionate about the history of Alexandrian African Americans. He, without doubt, is one of the most dedicated advocates for the history of African Americans in Alexandria.

McArthur Myers

Looking at Alexandria today is not the Alexandria that I once knew in my childhood because African American history was absent.  In the 20th Century leading up to the 1970s, the local history of African Americans in the City of Alexandria was not available to the public, nor in the school system. Now, one can walk the streets of Alexandria and see the presence of the history of African Americans of long ago. Although Alexandria looks different in the 21st Century, with old housing communities of the 1930s and 1940s that have been torn down and new ones replaced the old structures, I feel that there are still sites in the City that remind people about the history of African Americans.

Thanks to the City of Alexandria for making efforts that tell the history and stories of their local African Americans who played an important role in the history of Alexandria from the time the City was founded.

Char McCargo Bah is a published author, freelance writer, columnist, independent historian, investigative/genealogist researcher and a Living Legend of Alexandria.

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