A brick building located at 1315 Duke Street in Old Town Alexandria used to house the largest and most successful domestic slave trading firm in America.
Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., toured the building Monday afternoon to see what the funds he helped secure for the museum are being used for today. It was part of Moran's "Investing in Northern Virginia" tour.
"It's important for Alexandrians to know their history," he said. "There's a large African-American population in the schools here whose ancestors probably experienced slavery, and they experience freedom. ... The people in Alexandria often don't understand how the city became what it is today."
Beginning in 1828, the Franklin and Armfield Co. purchased local slaves and sent them south for sale, mostly to work on cotton plantations in Louisiana and Mississippi.
It's now home to Freedom House Museum and the Northern Virginia Urban League. The building is dedicated to Rev. Lewis Henry Bailey, a former slave who was freed in 1863 and returned to Alexandria, where he founded several churches and schools.
"It's a place to be ashamed of what went on, but it's important to understand what went on to right this injustice," Moran said.
The museum is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, and it recently received a $25,000 grant from Dominion Power.
Cynthia Dinkins, president of the Northern Virginia Urban League, said the group will use the new funds to help upgrade the museum with a new DVD player and headphones, among other things. The funds also will be used for its anniversary celebration June 19, which will include a panel discussion at Alfred Street Baptist Church.
The museum is trying to raise funds to create a mobile unit that could be taken out to local schools.