Dr. Albert Johnson, who lived and worked at 814 Duke Street for 46 years, was one of the first licensed African-American physicians in Alexandria. Active in community organizations, including the local black chapter of the Odd Fellows, Johnson helped raise money to build Alexandria Hospital, completed in 1916.
Johnson was born in Lynchburg in 1866 to William and Harriet Johnson, both of whom were formerly enslaved. Johnson graduated from high school in Lynchburg in 1886. He worked briefly as a public school teacher before enrolling at Howard University's Medical College in Washington, D.C., and settled in Alexandria in 1894. He lived in this house between 1896 and 1940, and sold the property to Annie B. Rose in 1941.
Practicing medicine was enormously difficult for African Americans in the Jim Crow South. Few medical schools accepted black students, and resources were limited at those that did. For more than 10 years at the turn of the 20th century, Johnson was the only doctor serving Alexandria's black community. In 1924, he was one of only two, and as late as 1950 there were only five or six doctors for the entire black population of Alexandria.
Johnson's fundraising for the Alexandria Hospital is particularly significant. If blacks were admitted to hospitals at all in the South, they were relegated to all-black wards with substandard conditions. Black doctors' efforts to improve conditions gradually paid off, and health care for African Americans improved dramatically over the course of the 20th century.
Johnson's Italianate row house is located in the Bottoms, the oldest African-American neighborhood in Alexandria. Duke Street, a main thoroughfare in Alexandria, was the dividing line between the white and black parts of town, and many educated blacks had residences on this stretch. The elegant wooden cornice, ornamented entry and cast-iron stoop of No. 814 reflect Johnson's prestige in the neighborhood. The townhouse, which faces towards the north, is a two-story, three bay, side-hall building with a raised basement. The brick house was renovated in 1974.
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814 Duke St.