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A Historical Plaque Commemorates an African American Community by Wilkes Tunnel

A new plaque commemorates Hayti, an African American community formed in Alexandria Old Town in the 1800s. (Photo courtesy Daniya Tamendarova)

By Daniya Tamendarova

Alexandria, VA – There is a new historical plaque on the wall of the Wilkes Street Tunnel in Alexandria Old Town, the brick-lined pedestrian path that was once a railway tunnel used during the Civil War. The plaque tells the story of a neighborhood formed near the tunnel by free Black Alexandria residents in the 1800s. By 1860, the community became known as Hayti (pronounced Hay-tie) in honor of the only successful uprising of enslaved people in the Western Hemisphere, resulting in Haiti’s independence in 1804.

The first Black homeowners in Alexandria lived in Hayti by 1820. That year, a laundress, Hannah Jackson, bought a house in Hayti from Mordecai Miller, a Quaker and watchmaker for George Washington, who rented and sold homes to free Black Alexandrians guided by his anti-slavery beliefs. The story of Hannah Jackson and her family is remarkable, and a moving part of the history relayed through the plaque.

The plaque is part of the Alexandria Heritage Trail, with 23 beautiful miles and more than 110 markers exploring Alexandria’s archeology and history. Stop by the new plaque and take a stroll along the trail.

To find out more about the Alexandria Heritage Trail (including trail maps and guidebook), see alexandriava.gov/historic-alexandria/alexandria-heritage-trail

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