In 1820, free black laundress Hannah Jackson bought a house and lot from Quaker landlord Mordecai Miller. Her purchase, for 5 shillings and regular ground rent, made her one of the first African Americans to own property in Alexandria. Anti-slavery Quakers such as Miller fostered the development of early African-American communities like Hayti and the Bottoms by renting and selling property to blacks.
In the 1820s, Hayti was occupied largely by skilled, ambitious men and women, many of whom were raising families. Jackson's house was at the center of the Hayti neighborhood, which swelled with free blacks and "hired-out" slaves attracted to the less onerous legal climate in Alexandria, part of the District of Columbia from 1801 to 1847. In rapidly growing Alexandria, Jackson would have found a ready market for her services as a laundress, a typical occupation for black women at that time. Despite the low wages paid to washerwomen, Jackson somehow saved enough to purchase the freedom of her sister, son, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, whom she then emancipated.
In 1816, Jackson paid William Hepburn $1,000 to free her sister Esther and her four children. When Esther died, Jackson raised her children, one of whom, Moses Hepburn, became a leading local businessman and civic leader.
The brick two-story building currently at 406-408 S. Royal Street was built after the Jackson family era. The buildings that the Jacksons occupied are no longer extant, but were probably wood frame. In Hannah Jackson's will there is mention of a "back house" called the "Cedar Post House," which was probably also wood frame. The site where the Cedar House stood can be seen from the alley running South from Wolfe Street behind the lot.
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406-408 South Royal Street