The Robert Robinson Library was the first public library built exclusively for African Americans in Alexandria. It was built in 1940 as a way of forestalling integration of the existing library on Queen Street, built just three years earlier. In 1939 five young African Americans staged a sit-in at the segregated Barrett Library after being denied library cards. Charges against the protesters were dropped, and the following year Robert Robinson was built in the black Uptown Neighborhood - also home to Parker-Gray High School, the only high school in the city that admitted blacks.
In 1983, the Alumni Association of Parker-Gray School and the Alexandria Society for the Preservation of Black Heritage opened the Alexandria Black History Museum in the former library. Volunteers from the two organizations staffed the museum, then called the Alexandria Black History Resource Center, until 1987, when the City Council placed it under the Office of Historic Alexandria and provided funding for an addition to the building, completed in 1989. In 1995, two additional sites were added to the museum. The nine-acre Alexandria African American Heritage Park preserves the site of a 19th-century cemetery and includes sculptures designed by an African American. The Watson Reading Room, next door to the museum, is a non-circulating collection of books, videos, documents, and periodicals on African-American life and culture.
The library now houses the Alexandria Black History Museum.
Geographical and Contact Information
638 N. Alfred Street; entrance on Wythe Street