Freedom House Museum

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1315 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA, USA

Freedom House Museum Alexandria Reviews

Zagnut66 Zagnut66
112 reviews
Freedom House Museum Jan 22, 2015
The Freedom House Museum focuses on the slave trade in the mid-19th century following the ban on the importation of slaves into the United States. The small museum takes up the basement of a building built around 1820 that once housed the largest slave trading operation in the country.

When farmers primarily in Maryland and Virginia abandoned tobacco as their staple crop for wheat and corn, an over supply of slaves developed as the new crops required less labor. The Alexandria slave pen thus opened in 1828, buying up the extra slaves and transporting them down to Natchez and New Orleans in the Deep South to be sold to the cotton plantations. The entrepreneurs who started the enterprise, Isaac Franklin and John Armfield, dealt a thousand slaves per year and were two of the wealthiest men in the nation when they sold their business in 1836. The new owners were the people who kidnapped the free black man Solomon Northup in the movie "12 Years a Slave."

The building served as a Union prison during the Civil War, then a hospital, then as an apartment building until the Urban League bought it in the 1980s. The cellar where slaves were once shackled now holds exhibits on the slave trade, a narrow enough focus appropriate for the small space. The displays are thoughtful and informative, the cellar creepy and claustrophobic.

The museum is a ten minute walk from the King Street Metro station on Duke Street and worth visiting if you are staying in one of the nearby hotels. Unfortunately it is only open on weekdays and there is no sign on the building. Look for the historical marker on the Franklin and Armfield Slave Office out front, go through the red door and hit the buzzer to be let in. There is a suggested donation of $6 but the receptionist never mentioned it. The upper floors are used as office space by the Urban League, so don’t panic if you hear footsteps and creaking floorboards overhead.

Bonus Action Shots: On my way back to the Metro, a traffic light fell over onto Duke Street and somehow missed hitting anyone. City driving is always fun.
The old Alexandria slave pen
Alexandria slave pen in 1861 - the…
Freedom House
Look for this entrance
8 / 8 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
spocklogic says:
The "12 Years a Slave" was a different dimension to the slave trade I didn't know about until I saw that film. The slave trade in Virginia, of course, somewhat notorious. Anyway, you were in the right place at the right time and didn't get hit with a traffic light!
Posted on: Jan 23, 2015
cotton_foam says:
I've been wanting to see that movie...
Posted on: Jan 22, 2015
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