To raise awareness of the contributions of black people in society, Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-trained historian specializing in Black History, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life (now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History) and is credited with the creation of Negro History Week in 1925. This spurred black history clubs, new classroom materials, and community consciousness of black history. While we now celebrate Black History Month throughout February, we must continue to share information about black life, history, and culture year-round.
This year’s Black History month theme, “African Americans and the Arts,” highlights the impact made by Black Americans in music, visual arts, performing arts, literature, cultural expression, and other arts that make up an important part of American culture and history today. Whether it’s remembering history makers from our past, celebrating the artists in our midst, or looking to the future of the community, there are opportunities all around us to recognize Black history.
Want more? Take a deeper dive into local history with additional reading materials and resources below. Read the full Black History Month proclamation here.
African Americans and the Arts in the City of Falls Church
Explore parks and landmarks around the City dedicated to Black history makers including...
- Tinner Hill Civil Rights Monument “Tinner Hill Arch” (S. Washington Street and Tinner Hill Road)
- Tinner Hill Heritage Trail (400 Block of S. Washington Street)
- Henderson House (307 S. Maple Avenue)
- Tinner Hill Historic Park (106 Tinner Hill Road)
- Zig Zag Sculpture at Tinner Hill Historic Site (106 Tinner Hill Road)
- “Hope for Tomorrow Mural” (204 E. Fairfax Street)
- Local History Sidewalk Project (S. Maple Avenue and Tinner Hill Road)
- E.B. Henderson Gymnasium at the Community Center (223 Little Falls Street)
Engage with Art made by Regional Black artists like...
Take advantage of City sponsored amenities...
Key Figures in City of Falls Church History
Below you’ll find a few key black figures in City of Falls Church history that align with this year’s theme of Black Resistance. You may have heard of these individuals, and others you may be meeting for the first time. They’ve all contributed to the fabric that is the City of Falls Church that we know today.
Want more? Take a deeper dive into local history with the additional reading materials and resources at the bottom.
- Harriet Foote Turner (1800s): Harriet Foote Turner was a free woman living in Canada who escaped slavery in Falls Church in the late 1850s. According to historical records, Harriet posed as a slave owner on a trip to collect other enslaved people for the plantation she lived on. Leading the group from the deep south to Canada, Harriet escaped with a total of 12 other people. Today, the City of Falls Church remembers Harriet through the Falls Church Women's History walk on South Maple Street. You can find her story imprinted on the sidewalk.
- Harriet Brice (1800s): Many are familiar with the damage that the Civil War left in its wake, but few know of the hardship Americans faced afterward in fighting for payment from the government. Early black landowners in the Falls Church region, Harriet and George Brice faced thousands of dollars in damages inflicted by both Union and Confederate troops. The couple was one of few who successfully lobbied Congress for partial repayment of the losses on their farm. Harriet and Geroge Brice went on to lead efforts to establish the Galloway United Methodist Church, which still stands today on Annandale Road.
- James and Russell Lee (1800s-1900s): In 1866 James Lee purchased a plot of land that would go on to make history in Falls Church. While he wouldn't live to see it, Lee's son, Russell, sold a portion of that plot in James' name to establish a school for local black children. The original school building comprised only two shoddy rooms, but James Lee Elementary became the most equipped school in the region for black students after renovations. Today, the James Lee Community Center, just outside of City limits, stands in its place, reminding us of the Lee family's tremendous impact on the region.
- EB Henderson/Joseph Tinner (1900s): Tinner Hill, a neighborhood on the City's west side, has been home to some of the most active black community members in the City of Falls Church's history. Both the Tinner and Henderson families originate from Tinner Hill, and each has longstanding roots in the area. From Eliza Hicks Henderson, who escaped slavery in Mississippi by walking to the DC area to reunite with family, to the friendship and alliance shared by Joseph B. Tinner and E.B. Henderson that led to the first rural chapter of the NAACP. The advocacy work of both families continues to the present day, and the positive impact Tinner Hill residents have on the City of Falls Church is undeniable.
- Mary Ellen Henderson (1900s): Mary Ellen Henderson was a principal and teacher at the Falls Church Negro School, along with being an avid activist who helped gain funding to renovate the shack-like structure into a functioning school. In 1936, she conducted a study on the distribution of school resources among white and black schools and presented her results to the Fairfax County Board. Her research proved, without a doubt, the unequal treatment students received based on race. After decades of work towards equal education, the County still refused to integrate, but Mary Ellen Henderson’s work pushed the government to rebuild the “Negro” school into James Lee Elementary. Today, the City of Falls Church honors her advocacy work through the Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School bearing her name.
- Marian Selby (1900s): 2024 marks the 60th anniversary of Marian Costner Selby’s graduation from Falls Church Public Schools. In 1961, Marian entered her sophomore year as the first black student to attend George Mason High School. Coming from the Costner family, local and active figures in the community, Marian was raised with a sense of civic responsibility and a desire for justice. Besides paving the way for other students of color in the school district, she was also a part of the successful effort to integrate the State Theatre. Marian still lives in the region and is an active community member.
A Deeper Dive
Local and Regional Resources
- Tinner Hill Foundation: Shares local African American history. Goal to educate and unify community over our past. Recognize those who haven't been recognized.
- 100 Years of Black Falls Church A collaborative project by the Tinner Hill Foundation and George Masion University African American Studies Program. Hosts historical archives including various media (newspapers, photos, interviews, etc).
- Falls Church History Room: Located at Mary Riley Styles Library, hosts local history archives.
- Fairfax County Virginia Room: Hosts local history archives, including interviews/resources on Falls Church residents.
- Fairfax County African American History Inventory A searchable database that includes sites, biographies, etc. With links to African American history in the region, including overlap with Falls Church.
- “Images of America: Historic Falls Church” by Cathy Taylor. Contains a bevy of photos as well as short stories of black history.