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Manumission Tour Company: Celebrating Freedom Through Cultural Tourism in Alexandria, Virginia

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

Our Narrative Matters. If we don't tell our stories, our truths, someone else will.

We recently caught up with Alexandria City Councilman and business owner, Mr. John Chapman, to discuss Manumission Tour Company. Mr. Chapman decided to create the Manumission Tour Company in 2016, "because Alexandria did not have any privately-owned tour companies that directly focused on telling the history of Africans and African Americans in early Alexandria, and based on my research, Alexandria has far too much Black history to only be given cursory recognition."

Mr. John Chapman leading a Manumission Tour in Old Town Alexandria.
Mr. John Chapman leading a Manumission Tour.

Mr. Chapman named the company "The Manumission Tour Company" to create a conversation. "Many people do not know what the term "Manumission" means, so when I speak about the company, I get the opportunity to explain that a manumission was a piece of paper that would give an enslaved person their freedom."

Like most who have made the decision to put action behind their purpose, and explore entrepreneurship, John has had his share of challenges. "Marketing and getting the word out is always a challenge, as well as, frankly finding time to work on my business. I have a full-time job working for Fairfax County Public Schools and a part time job on the Alexandria City Council, which does not leave me a great deal of time to build and maintain my business."

Those who have overcome the challenges of entrepreneurship also get to celebrate the sense of accomplishment when things come together, and goals are met! Mr. Chapman's favorite experience with the business has been producing a custom walking tour for a family reunion, whose family members had traced their history back to ancestors that had been sold out of the slave trading office of Isaac Franklin & John Armfield, located in Alexandria.

"To be able to further connect this family with the history of the Freedom House museum and the history of Alexandria, was extremely special."

A group on a Manumission Tour, learning about Black History in Alexandria.

"In the next five years, I hope to have a wider array of regularly scheduled walking tours in various neighborhoods in the city. We plan to expand our van and bus tour offerings in company vehicles. Plans are also underway for a line of books on various Black History subjects, as well," said John.

We asked Mr. Chapman his thoughts on "the next 400," he responded: "I think our success as a people for the next 400 years is dependent on how we own our own story and culture, as we look to compete economically. I hope future generations see our generation as the generation that captured our magic, our story, our culture and used it to create our legacy and secure the legacy for future generations! To that end, our biggest challenge and goal will be to develop black wealth as individual, community, and organizations. If we do, we can compete and thrive as a people. If we do not, we will lag behind other communities."


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