Local African American Historical Sites

Stafford, Spotsylvania, and Westmoreland counties and the City of Fredericksburg all have houses, churches, and museums of great importance to African American history and heritage.

Photo of Noah Davis
Noah Davis, opens a new window by New York Public Library / Public Domain

The City of Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg has a number of interesting sites for anyone interested in African American history to visit.  You can visit the Shiloh Baptist Church - Old Site, which became Fredericksburg’s first separate African American congregation in 1854-1855. This was the church where Noah Davis, a formerly enslaved man who purchased his and his family members' freedom, first became an ordained minister. The Fredericksburg Area Museum has many exhibits on African American history and currently features displays on Gladys and Ira West, pioneering STEM trailblazers, and African American artists from Fredericksburg. The original Walker-Grant School is another important site you might visit. Currently used as an administrative building by Fredericksburg’s school system, the building was the site of Fredericksburg’s first African American public high school. Finally, visit the Fredericksburg National Cemetery, where Urbane Bass, an African American officer and doctor in World War I, is buried. A walking tour is offered that features these sites as well as others. Pick up a copy of the “African American History of Fredericksburg, Virginia”, opens a new window self-guided walking tour brochure that includes these and other sites at the Fredericksburg Visitor Center.

In 2024, the Fredericksburg Civil Rights Trail, which features many of these sites, was added to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail system. You can now see descriptions of many of the city’s important historical sites online, along with other important places in Virginia and the rest of the U.S.    

Black History Month Living History, opens a new window by Germanna Community College / CC 2.0, opens a new window / None
Source: Germanna Community College

Spotsylvania County

Spotsylvania also has many African American historical sites of interest. The county's tourism page offers an itinerary for a self-guided tour of 12 important sites. The John J. Wright Museum is located in the building that used to be the John J. Wright School, Spotsylvania County’s first public high school for African American students. Another important educational site in the county is the former Piney Branch School. Piney Branch is the only one-room school for African Americans still standing in its original location in Spotsylvania County. Spotsylvania Courthouse is also an important historically. The current building has existed since 1838 and is where George Boxley, a White abolitionist, was once held as a prisoner before trial. It was also where Mary D. Waller and Jennie E. Boggs, two African American women, were held as prisoners for two years until being freed in 1888. And, the Little Mine Road Baptist Church was the first organized African American church in Spotsylvania; its congregation still meets today.


Stafford County has its own set of important African American historical sites. The Rowser Building was originally constructed in 1939 as the Stafford Training School, Stafford County’s only public high school for African American students. Currently used as a community center, the Rowser Center is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features the Path to Freedom African American Mural. Aquia Landing was an important part of the Underground Railroad by which many enslaved people escaped to freedom, including Solomon Northup, John Washington, and Henry "Box" Brown. And, just over the bridge from Fredericksburg, Chatham Manor is a former plantation that was the site of a rebellion by enslaved people in 1805 and was also used as a hospital by Union forces during the Civil War. Today, it is maintained as a National Park Service site and is open to the public, serving as the headquarters for the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.


Westmoreland County has several African American historical sites of great importance. CRRL’s article on Westmoreland County’s African American history details some of the important events in its African American community and the history of enslaved people in the county. Built in 1937, the Armstead Tasker (A.T. Johnson) High School was the only public high school in Westmoreland County for African American students until 1970. Today, it is maintained as the A.T. Johnson Museum. Westmoreland is also home to the Museum at Colonial Beach, which features the Watermen’s Room, a collection of artifacts from Virginia’s community of African American watermen. George Washington’s birthplace (another National Park Service property) and Stratford Hall (home of the Lee family in the 18th and 19th centuries) both have information on the enslaved people who once lived and worked in those places. 

In addition to these historical sites, CRRL has books on our historical African American community in its collection. This list features a selection of books on African American history in our region and Virginia as a whole. Some can be checked out; others are available in the Virginiana Room at our Fredericksburg Branch. 

CRRL Picks: Local African American History

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