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 For media inquiries, please contact


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:

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

The Other Alexandria: A 160-year-old Road Map

Annie Lee Wheeler’s death certificate

Many people came to Alexandria during the civil war from Maryland, North Carolina and other parts of Virginia. Few African American families talked to their children about their lives prior to the civil war. These stories were lost and never passed down through the generations. However, one of these families who migrated to Alexandria during the civil war did share their family history with their younger generation.

Annie Lee Wheeler shared her father’s family history with her daughter, Helena Wheeler and her grandchildren, especially her granddaughter, Shirley Gilliam Sanders Steele.

Check out their story in the Alexandria Times’ newspaper dated April 14, 2022, at

Behind the scenes of the article titled, “The Yesteryears of the Seminary Community.”

Left to right: Daniel G. Simms III, Carl Toms, Carla Toms, Brenda Terrell, Steven Simms & Charles Toms

The children and grandchildren of two Seminary families with the surname of Thomas and Simms got together to talk about their families from the Seminary community.

The cousins talked about how their families were raised on a lot of love and hard work. Their families left a long legacy among the descendants who raised their children on the same family principles. The Seminary community were all intermingle through kinfolks and marriages.

Steven (Steve) Simms, Charles Toms and Brenda Terrell fondly remembered their parents and grandparents of the Seminary community.

A detailed article is available in the Alexandria Times dated, November 11, 2021, titled, “The yesteryears of the Seminary community” at

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