African American Heritage History Tour
A tour through the Stafford Region
Visit the places where African Americans worshipped, lived and labored. Hear the stories about the prominent people who lived or were brought here and see the locations where they lived out these stories. This two hour guided tour starts at the Fredericksburg Visitor Center (706 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg, VA 22401).
City Dock – Begin your African American Heritage History tour at the Fredericksburg Visitor Center where you will meet your step-on guide. Be introduced to a brief history of the slavery Issue in the new colonies. Travel to Sophia Street location of Fredericksburg City Dock and see where most African Americans got the first view of their new life. Discover why Fredericksburg was a center for slave trading.
Wolf Street—Learn what was found while building the parking garage and who “Georgy” men were. The African Americans labored in many different industries and some came highly skilled, but all were vital to the development of the area.
Shiloh Baptist Church ‘Old Site’ — Learn of the rich history of this building but more importantly of the rich culture of the congregations that had a vital role in making Fredericksburg what it is today.
George Street —See where Fanny Richards was born and how this little southern girl, who had to learn her first lessons in hiding, had spent her life passing along her knowledge to generations of young people.
Mary Washington House — The home of the mother of the father of our country. She lived here from 1772 until her death in 1789. See slave quarters over the kitchen behind the house.
Kenmore –The home of Fielding and Betty Lewis. Betty was the sister of George Washington. Colonel Lewis owned a gunnery which supplied arms for the Revolutionary War. He also owned ships important in the Revolutionary War including the Dragon, built in Fredericksburg. Some of the area’s slaves were freed after service as sailors on his ships and prospered as free blacks.
Sunken Road—The battles of Fredericksburg were fought in this area in 1862 thru 1864. Blacks were active and served in many activities. After the war blacks were employed burying Union soldiers in the National Cemetery. The first black officer to be buried in the National Cemetery was Urbane Bass, a black Fredericksburg doctor who died in 1918 while serving in World War I in France.
Barton Street—This area was once known as Liberty Town and before the Civil War many free blacks rented homes here. Old Maury School stands where the potter’s field and the Colored Cemetery were located. At the intersection of George Street with Barton and Liberty Street is Free Alley, a path leading south where slaves could walk freely to town without having to display a pass.
Slave Auction Block—This block was used in over a dozen sales and hiring of slaves prior to the civil war. See and experience one of the most compelling urban artifacts in America. Where past failures, injustice, and the pain of families and a people all come together to form a part of our nation’s history.
James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library—James Monroe practiced law here in Fredericksburg and later was governor of Virginia and the fifth president of the United States. Monrovia, the capital of the African country of Liberia was named for him because of his interest and activity in the American Colonization Society which encouraged black migration to Liberia.
St. George’s Episcopal Church—Many churches in Fredericksburg sponsored slave schools and St. George’s had a local chapter of the American Colonization Society in 1819.
National Bank of Fredericksburg—See where Abraham Lincoln spoke to Union troops and citizens of Fredericksburg. The Freedmen’s Bureau had its offices in the bank. Also see where John Washington author of “Civil War A Slave Narrative” once lived.
Fredericksburg Courthouse—Designed by James Renwick and built in 1865. See the doors where petitions were posted and over 10,000 slaves gained their freedom.
Shiloh Baptist Church ‘New Site’ – Established after the division of the Shiloh Baptist congregation. In 1905, Fredericksburg Normal and Industrial Institute (first and only black high school in the area) began in the basement. In the 1960s the church played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement.
Chatham Manor — Probably the largest holder of slaves in the area. In 1804, records indicate that 230 slaves were offered up for sale. Learn of the story of the “Clothesline Telegraph.”
Supplemental Related Tours
Continue your journey by downloading a printable copy of the Trail To Freedom map and proceed across the Rappahannock river where you can retrace the routes of those freedom seekers through ten stops in Stafford County. Start at the Rappahannock river and continue on to Aquia landing, to Washington, D.C. and beyond.
While in Stafford County, stop at Belmont, the Gari Melchers Memorial Gallery. This is the home of the late artist, Gari Melchers, who painted portraits and scenes from the Stafford and Fredericksburg area. Gari Melchers’ models included realistic portraits of African Americans during that time period. Additional portraits and scenes featuring African Americans can be seen on display at the Gari Melchers Memorial Gallery.
Spotsylvania County, in an effort to educate the public, inspire local pride, and promote appreciation for the County’s African American contributions to our history, has created an African American Heritage Driving Trail. This trail will not only encourage citizens but also visitors to explore, learn, appreciate and preserve the County’s local African American historical resources. The County was able to put this project together because of a Preserve America Grant from the National Park Service, Department of Interior.
Approximately 41 sites were designated as having historical significance around the County. Of the 41 sites, a site selection committee narrowed down the actual trail stopping points to 11 sites. These 11 sites combine 23 historic African American events, people or places.