Valuing “Others”: Free African American Neighborhoods in Antebellum Alexandria
Gastner, Mary Kate
Linebaugh, Donald W.
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The historic preservation movement over the past thirty years has developed a value-center approach to preservation. The city of Alexandria, VA exemplifies this shift. Cultural resources once considered not of public interest or importance are now essential to the ever-evolving historical narrative of the city. Alexandria, with its overwhelming wealth of cultural resources, has incorporated many examples of social and cultural resources into history, however, most of those resources date back only to the Civil War. The representation of free African Americans, who lived in Alexandria when it was part of the District of Columbia, are largely absent from that narrative. This paper will review the history of the earliest free African American inhabitants in the city, the history of the preservation movement within Alexandria, and assess how preservation values are changing. It will make the argument that Alexandria, though a well preserved city, encounters the same issues that most historic districts encounter, issues of gentrification, interest, and interpretation. This paper will argue that preservationist and Alexandria residents need to reevaluate they preservation motives, moving away from the question “how do we preserve” to the question “what are we preserving and why?”