WAMU 88.5 : News

Former Slave Pen Becomes Home For Seniors

Play associated audio
Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille, left, and Vice Mayor Kerry Donley share a laugh with the Rev. Earl Lee, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, during the unveiling of a new historical marker at Beasley Square.
Michael Pope
Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille, left, and Vice Mayor Kerry Donley share a laugh with the Rev. Earl Lee, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, during the unveiling of a new historical marker at Beasley Square.

Low-income seniors now have a new place to live in Alexandria: an affordable housing complex opened by a historically African-American church and located on a block that was once a slave pen.

A few months ago, Barbara Bradley was facing homelessness. She had little money and nowhere to turn. Then she found Beasley Square, a new affordable housing complex for low-income seniors. Without it, she'd probably be living on the streets, she says.

Walk inside Beasley Square and you're confronted with what seems like an upscale apartment building. There's little evidence this entire block of Duke Street was once a slave pen where thousands of African-Americans were held in bondage. Bradley, who is white, says she's fascinated by the history of her new house.

"I mean, they went through a lot of stuff, you know," she says. "My great-grandma, she was Andrew Jackson's second cousin. And I guess she learned a lot about slavery through that system."

Bradley's neighbor across the hall is 62-year-old Theresa Wilson, who is black. She says it's fitting that a site that once imprisoned slaves is now owned by an African-American church.

"I don't feel bad about it," says Wilson. "I just feel that they finally got some sense to come together, you know, and make something for the elderly people now."

Outside the building, on the corner of Duke and West Streets, is a new historical marker telling the rest of the story. After the Civil War ended, the facility became a hospital for blacks. There, in the mess hall of the hospital, a congregation began meeting that eventually developed into Shiloh Baptist Church, which built Beasley Square.

"This is the most significant historic marker for African-American history to be put up yet in town," says city archeologist Pam Cressey.

Now, that history is ready for the next chapter; a story of low-income seniors living out their golden years without worrying about finding themselves out on the street.

NPR

Book Review: 'In Praise Of Hatred'

Alan Cheuse reviews the novel In Praise of Hatred, by Khaled Khalifa. The book, which was recently translated to English, features a young Muslim girl in 1980s Syria.
NPR

Fast-Food CEOs Earn Supersize Salaries; Workers Earn Small Potatoes

A new report finds that the average compensation of fast-food CEOs has quadrupled since 2000. By comparison, worker wages have increased less than 1 percent.
NPR

Green GOP Group Caught Between 'Rock And A Hard Place'

On Earth Day 2014, it wasn't easy being an environmental organization in the Republican Party. The big donors who write checks aren't much interested in the environment.
NPR

Online Sales Taxes Shift Consumer Behavior, Study Shows

Some states have enacted so-called Amazon taxes, forcing the giant online retailer to collect sales taxes the same way traditional stores do. In those states, Amazon's sales fell about 10 percent.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.