Behind the scenes of the Alexandria Gazette Packet’s article, “If These Walls Could Talk – Roberts Chapel Methodist Church”.
It is remarkable to research an African American Church’s history that goes back beyond the Civil War. This old Alexandria’s Church has records in old ledge books. One can feel the texture of the old books and see the markings of the old ink quill pen that recorded members’ activities in Church. The near perfect penmanship that once was considered the penmanship of literary individuals is displayed throughout the Church’s ledge books.
In Alexandria, you will find one of the oldest African American’s Methodist Church that has been around since 1832. You will find this Church on Washington Street where the view of Roberts Memorial United Methodist Church (UMC) seems to be tucked behind shady trees that could slightly block your view at 606 South Washington Street. This Church congregation started at Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia prior to the 1830.
The free and enslaved African Americans left Trinity and started their own Church. The Church records of Roberts Memorial UMC speaks of the who’s who among African Americans in early days of Alexandria when the Church was known as Roberts Chapel. The Church has gone through several name changes from Davis Chapel to Roberts Chapel Methodist Church to its present name.
Mr. Harold Bell has been involved in sports for all of his teenage and adult life. He got his start as a host of sport talk show from legendary Petey Greene and Bobby Bennett. By 1972, Station WOOK-AM a black oriented station hired him as a talk show host, allowing him to express his strong opinions with no filer. The show was christened “Inside Sports,” the tag given to him by his wife, Hattie. Harold’s “Inside Sports,” ran from 1972 through the 1990s.
Alexandria, Virginia is a unique place that is rich in history. The history in Alexandria goes back beyond the birth of George Washington who frequently visited Alexandria during his lifetime. Many African Americans in Alexandria have made many contributions to Alexandria through their labor, artisans, religion, educators, businesspersons, government employees and politicians.
Some of these African Americans in Alexandria have history that go back to the Colonial Period, and a great deal of the African Americans have family members who came to Alexandria during the Civil War. One of those African American families that came to Alexandria prior to the Civil War was the Diggs’ Family.
You can read the article on Lois Diggs Davis titled, “Passing The History On” in the Alexandria Gazette at this link:
When an elder leave this world, he takes his history library with him. Mr. James E. Henson died on December 13, 2020 in Alexandria, Virginia. He shared his knowledge that he gained from his elders with others. I was one of those individuals who he shared a great deal of history of what he knew and what he gained from his elders.
Now Mr. Henson has joined his elders and left the rest of us to inspire generation after us. He left us a priceless gift of self and history. He made room for us to do the same. He was one of a kind. Many will miss Mr. Henson.
The second article is on one of Parker-Gray High School’s finest women runners, Marian Stanfield a 1964 graduate of Parker-Gray High School.
On the same page as Marion Stanfield, is the third article about, ‘Parker-Gray Alumni 40 Plus Years of Giving Scholarships’ monies. The PG Alumni recently announced that they are retiring the organization so this will be the last official scholarships given out to new recipients. You can find these articles on page 14 at – http://connectionarchives.com/PDF/2020/122320/Alexandria.pdf.
I would like to wish all my readers, Happy Christmas and Happy New Year. I look forward in continuing to bring you, local stories of African Americans in Alexandria who made accomplishments and a difference in their community.
I would also like to thank all the individuals who took the time in 2020 to write my editor about the stories that I wrote. I truly feel grateful that I have been able to highlight Alexandria African Americans’ accomplishments. I deeply appreciated that my readers enjoyed taking this history tour with me in learning so many stories of the forgotten histories of our community. Thank you and be safe!