Alexandria City Councilman John Taylor Chapman started the Manumission Tour Company in the spring of 2016 with the focus of telling African-American history in Alexandria. The first tour he started was “Alexandria’s Fight for Freedom,” which tackles urban slavery, runaway slaves and abolitionists. Due to the tour’s success, the company will have subsequent tours that will explore different topics of African-American history, such as slave trading and African-American churches, starting this month.
Why put this tour company together?
I was looking at the tours of landscapes in Alexandria and realized that we didn’t have one specifically catering to individuals who would want to check out Alexandria’s African-American history and the historical sites that we have. I think [Alexandria] has over 35 sites in Old Town itself that has some component of African-American history.
Why is it important to share these stories?
I think it’s important to show the various histories of many of our cities and towns because we know America has a very diverse population. All of the different racial and ethnic groups have come to America different ways and through different stories, and we need to share that.
What do you hope people learn from these tours?
I hope folks learn something new about Alexandria, whether you live in Alexandria or you’re new to the region or you’re here for a couple of days, and I also hope folks have a greater appreciation for the variety of stories and histories that exist in our city.
What has surprised you about the tours?
The first thing I learned, or that kind of validated [the tour], was how many people were excited to learn about African-American history in Alexandria. After getting press, we sold out all our tours for the duration of the year. The other thing is how many people were interested in furthering the knowledge that comes out about African-American history in Alexandria. I’ve had dozens of people approach me, email me or call me interested in volunteering to help get more information and research more information about African-American history in Alexandria.