Alexandria, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
The Hump: Open Lots For Blocks
"It was so cold that you could go to bed and see the moon shining (through the walls). The snow'd come through them cracks on your feet...Ice'd freeze on the washstand...It'd freeze in your bedroom...We had to go to a pump to get water to wash with. The pump was right in the street on just 'bout every corner—great big old wooden pump." —Henry Johnson, a neighborhood resident in the early 1900s, from oral history recordings owned by
Considered one of Alexandria's several historic African American neighborhoods, the Hump appears to have remained ethnically diverse and was characterized by wide open spaces that were utilized for agriculture, public refuse disposal, and social life. In the 1950s many of the homes and small businesses in the neighborhood were razed as part of urban renewal.
"We're talking about 1915...We played baseball because there were plenty of open spaces. We could build a baseball diamond any place. We played marbles in the street. Played spin tops in the street...there was open lots for blocks and blocks. No houses whatever." —Buster Williams, a neighborhood resident in the early 1900s, from oral history recordings owned by the Office of Historic Alexandria.
Vacant lots on these blocks were used in the 1940s and possible earlier by the African American-owned and -operated traveling tent variety show, Silas Green from New Orleans, which toured th South by rail between 1904 and 1957.
Part revue, part musical comedy, part minstrel show, Silas Green became one of the longest-lasting tent shows in American show business history an featured well known performers, including Bessie Smith, the legendary blues singer. It was enormously popular among both black and white audiences and offered a segregated seating arrangement
"... there used to be a Silas Green show and that was a very entertaining show under a tent. They would come to town with a tent and they would have entertainment. We never paid, we just kind of looked under the tent and watched...." —James E. Henson, Sr., a neighborhood resident in the mid-20th century, from oral history recordings owned by the Office of Historic Alexandria.
Erected by City of Alexandria.
Location. 38° 48.86′ N, 77° 2.85′ W. Marker is in Alexandria, Virginia. Marker can be reached from the intersection of North Alfred Street and Montgomery Street, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 840 North Alfred Street Park, Alexandria VA 22314, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. James Bland Homes (here, next to this marker); The Memorial Pool (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Robert Robinson Library -1940 (approx. 0.2 miles away); Parker-Gray High School (approx. 0.2 miles away); War, Rails, and Wells (approx. 0.3 miles away); Colross-Alexandria's Urban Phoenix Alexandria Canal (1843 - 1886) (approx. 0.3 miles away); Washington-Rochambeau Route (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Alexandria.
Categories. • African Americans • Man-Made Features •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on March 22, 2014, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 840 times since then and 27 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on March 22, 2014, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.