A National Historic Landmark, 1315 Duke Street, known today as Freedom House Museum, was the headquarters for the largest domestic slave trading operation in our nation. Following the international slave trade’s 1808 prohibition, Alexandria became a hub of the domestic slave trade due to its strategic location along roads and waterways heading southward. Between 1828 and 1861, thousands of enslaved African American men, women and children passed through this site. This human trafficking operation brought enslaved adults and children from the Chesapeake Bay area to a holding pen surrounding the building, where they were then forced by foot or by ship to Natchez, Mississippi or New Orleans, Louisiana to be sold.
The site was headquarters to five domestic slave trading firms, including Franklin and Armfield, the nation’s largest slave trading operation from 1828 to 1836. Ownership changed to four other slave trading firms and one of the partners in the final slave trading firm, Price, Birch & Co., was James H. Birch, the Washington slave trader who kidnapped and sold Solomon Northup, depicted in the Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave. Although Solomon Northup did not come to Alexandria, the inhumane conditions maintained by Birch in Alexandria were similar to those he experienced.
Slave trading operations at 1315 Duke Street ceased in 1861 due to the Union occupation of Alexandria at the beginning of the Civil War. The building has been owned by the Northern Virginia Urban League since 1996 and was purchased by the City Of Alexandria in 2020 to become part of the City’s museum system ensuring that the preservation and expanded interpretation of this rare site that interprets the domestic slave trade continues.
Today, this small yet powerful museum features original artifacts and first-person accounts told through videos and exhibits, bringing to life the harsh reality of the domestic slave trade and the courageous stories of African Americans who survived and continued the fight for equal rights.
Museum hours: Friday and Saturday, 1-5 p.m.
Additional hours for Black History Month, February 2020: Sunday 1-5 p.m.
Group tours: Tours for seven or more should contact 703-746-4739 at least one week in advance to arrange a time to visit. Groups are typically scheduled to visit before or after public hours.