Backyard History

THIS WEEK IN ALEXANDRIA: ”Hiring Day” African American Freedmen

ALEXANDRIA, VA — On January 18, 1852, the annual ”Hiring Day” for free African American men took place at what was then just outside the Alexandria city limits, enabling freedmen to obtain both permanent and long-term temporary employment in the Northern Virginia region.

The tradition of setting aside one day in January for this practice had been established decades before and connected farmers and cattle drovers from settlements to the west of Alexandria with a larger pool of employable men ready and waiting for job opportunities during the coming year.  The event was always held at Catt’s Tavern, also known as the Drover’s Tavern, located at Duke Street and Diagonal Road in what became known as the original “West End” of Alexandria, well known for its breweries, slaughterhouses and less than reputable businesses. The rough-and-tumble hostelry catered to the lodging needs of those transporting agricultural products and cattle from far outside the Port City and capitalized on their constant need for additional labor back on their farms.
(Source: Office of Historic Alexandria)


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