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Announcing a New Children’s Picture Book!

Little Michael Visits Fire Station 8 is Available on Amazon.com

I’m excited to announce that my fourth self-published book, (and my first children’s picture book!) “Little Michael Visits Fire Station 8,” is NOW available on Amazon.com!

In 2019, I was working with Arlington Humanities and the Arlington Public Schools Career and Technical Education (CTE)  program on the Cigar Box Project. One of the CTE teachers, Kris Martini, asked if I’d ever considered writing a children’s book with some of the stories from my book, “My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood.” Well, the thought hadn’t crossed my mind, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

This storybook is the first in a series of children’s picture books about Halls Hill, a formerly segregated neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia.

I knew I wanted to figure a way to dramatize the people, organizations, and institutions, in a way that would be fun to read but also teach a little bit about life in Arlington in the period covered in the My Halls Hill Family book. Most importantly, I wanted to develop the story in a way that little ones could understand.

The stories will be dramatizations of real people, organizations, and institutions from the period 1866 to 1966 when the neighborhood was walled in and discriminated against by the government and society due to institutional racism.

In the first book in the series, Little Michael Visits Fire Station 8, readers will be introduced to Langston School and Fire Station 8, which were both real places in the community. Captain Alfred Clark is an important character in the book, due to his heroism which was featured in the Washington Post. One of the teachers at the segregated Langston School who is highlighted in the book is Mrs. Evelyn Reed Syphax, who was married to Fire Station 8 Firefighter Archie Syphax. She was a leader in education in Arlington and became the first African American member of the Arlington School Board. Little Michael Jones and his friends, Lance Newman, and Ronnie Deskins are also in the book. They were three of the four children who desegregated schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1959.

There’s a field trip today
And Michael’s delighted 
But it’s not the hook and ladder truck in the bay
That has him excited! 
It’s a request that he asks of others all-day
Join him on the trip to Fire Station 8
And see if what he wants comes his way!

Little Michael Visits Fire Station 8 Book Trailer

Michael is excited about the field trip and through his excitement, he learns about the importance of representation.

CHECK OUT WILMA AT THE ARLINGTON CENTRAL LIBRARY
ON THURSDAY, JUNE 23, 2022 AT 6 PM

Register for the Juneteenth Event at the library here -> REGISTER

Check out the events page for other events – https://hallshill.com/events/

Why Were the 28 Plaintiffs Left Behind By Arlington County Public Schools?

The John M. Langston Citizens Association will celebrate the 85th Anniversary of the organization with a series of events during the weekend of May 13th through 15th.

The Opening Program on Friday, May 13th at the Langston-Brown Community Center will feature recognition of the 28 plaintiffs from the Thompson v. Arlington School Board 1958 court case who were denied entrance to white schools, when the Stratford Four (Ronald Deskins, Michael Jones, Lance Newman, and Gloria Thompson) were admitted on February 2, 1959.

THE WHY

These students were allowed to enter the white schools in September 1959, so many people today may wonder, ‘What’s the big deal, and why are they being recognized 63 years later?” Well, it is a big deal because the Arlington County School Board not only denied them the right to equal education for the spring 1959 semester, BUT they also did everything in their power to embarrass and demean the students.

I’ve always wondered when the Arlington Public Schools would do the right thing and finally recognize these brave students and their families. I took the opportunity to ask Dr. Duran, Arlington School Superintendent about this issue about a year ago. I then began to work with his Chief of Staff, Brian Stockton, who was able to gain approval for Arlington Public Schools and the School Board to work with the John M. Langston Citizens Association to finally honor them during our opening event.

THE FACTS

The Federal court ruling in 1956 approved desegregation in Arlington, but the School Board fought that ruling, and it was never enforced. Five of the plaintiffs from that case along with 27 additional students became the plaintiffs in the 1958 Thompson v Arlington School Board case. The image below is a list of the plaintiffs from my book, My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood, in the chapter titled The Stratford Four. I secured this list during research at the Library of Virginia.

Two of these plaintiffs dropped out during the process, Deloris Crutchfield and George Crutchfield.

The Arlington School Board had the students evaluated by Cyril Mill, a psychologist for the Virginia Department of Mental Hygiene. He recommended rejecting 12 of the students for psychological reasons or an inability to adjust. The School Board stated some students had academic deficiencies, but it was so blatantly racist that in one case, the NAACP lawyers pointed out that the “student was a year ahead of his grade according to the results of the California Achievement Tests in his school file.” There were five reasons for rejection by the School Board: Improper attendance areas, overcrowding at Washington-Lee High School, academic deficiency, psychological problems, and inability to adapt to a new situation.

Take a look at this Washington Post archive article describing “Arlington Board Defends Negro Rejections.”

CONTINUED DENIALS

Now, bear in mind that the Arlington School Board had already delayed the start of the school year because of their fear that Massive Resistance, the strategy for continuing segregation in public schools, would fall with yet another federal ruling to desegregate. The Washington Post documented that on September 3, 1958, in an article titled, Judge Bryan Hears Placement Body and Local Board.

THE SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS

Who were the five members of the Arlington School Board in 1958? Right-wing conservative, Robert A. Peck, Segregationist Mrs. Helen S. Lane, the longest serving member, Barnard Joy, then James Stockard, a native Texan and dedicated liberal, and finally L. Lee Beam, a conservative, but one who decided not to join either of the factions and “study each problem and vote by conviction.” See what the Washington Post reported on August 25, 1958 in the article titled, “Desegregation Spotlights Arlington School Board.”

JUDGE BRYAN’S ORDER

But as we all know, the School Board was unsuccessful in stopping desegregation. But Judge Bryan only allowed the four students to enter white schools in February. Here is a Washington Post article from September 18, 1958 with the highlights of his ruling, “Text of Bryan’s Arlington Desegregation Order.

YET THEY FOUGHT ON

The School Board wasn’t finished fighting yet. They sued to delay the desegregation until the Fall of 1959 for the four who were approved by the Court. Of course, Judge Bryan denied the request, which the Arlington School Board continued to appeal until finally, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren denied the request. The Bryan denial is documented in another Washington Post article on January 29, 1959, titled, “Delay Denied on Arlington Negro Pupils.”

THE STUDENTS FOUGHT BACK AND THEY WON!

Everyone knows about Arlington County being the first in Virginia to desegregate public schools. Every February we recognize the four students who bravely entered Stratford. But what about the other plaintiffs left behind?

Well, 22 of the students and their families decided to fight on. C’mon now, you didn’t think that Arlington let those students enroll in September 1959 because it was the right thing to do, did you???

The NAACP brought yet another case (were you aware that the NAACP filed more lawsuits in the Commonwealth of Virginia to desegregate schools than any other state in the union?!) The Washington Post describes the next chapter of the fight to desegregate in Arlington in an article titled, “NAACP Seeks Arlington Plan to Desegregate.”

Pic Washington Post Magazine, Feb 2, 2002. (Pic sent courtesy of Gloria Rowe Little)

Please join us as we recognize and honor these courageous former students at the Opening Program on Friday, May 13th at 6 PM (program begins at 6:30 PM) at the Langston-Brown Community Center, 2121 N. Culpeper St, Arlington, VA 22207

We hope to see you there!

Arlington Estate’s Freedman’s Village

One of the first Black communities in Arlington was Freedman’s Village, established on May 5, 1863, to house, educate and train formerly enslaved Black people. The U.S. Congress freed all the enslaved in the District of Columbia on April 16, 1862. The formerly enslaved had overrun DC and on May 5, 1863, they established Freedman’s Village to house, educate, and train the formerly enslaved citizens to establish their lives. The first Black community in Arlington was the Green Valley neighborhood that was initially settled in 1844 by a free black man, Levi Jones.

The history of the Arlington House, the residence on Arlington Estate can be found on the National Parks site, detailing how the property came to be owned by the U.S. Federal government.

The Arlington National Cemetery site has great information about Freedman’s Village from an article in the Connections Newspaper in 2004.

The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington has a great exhibit on Freedman’s Village at their location at 2611 Columbia Pike in Arlington.

The pressure on the Black people living at Freedman’s Village by the 1890’s was from the Federal government, especially the USDA that wanted to expand their agriculture presence on Arlington Estate, the U.S. Army who wanted the land to expand the Cemetery, and the local Arlington leaders who wanted the Black people out of Arlington because they were gaining political power.

Over the decade more Black people saw the writing on the wall and left Freedman’s Village for other Black neighborhoods in Arlington or the District of Columbia. By 1900, the Village was officially closed, with few of the owners of the residences or businesses fairly compensated for their property.

In addition to the Arlington Cemetery and National Parks sites linked above, there is a publicly available research thesis with detailed information about Black Arlington, Built By the People Themselves – African American Community Development in Arlington, Virginia, From the Civil War through Civil Rights, authored by Lindsey Bestebreurtje. Please visit these sites to learn more about Freedman’s Village.

COMING IN 2022

The HallsHill.com blog will be Shining a Black Light on Virginia History. Each Sunday a new TikTok video will be published focusing on an aspect of Virginia history, primarily Arlington initially, but eventually highlighting other important perspectives of our shared history. The weekly blog will provide more information and links to delve further into the facts. I hope you join me on this exploration. Peace and blessings to you all.

This Week’s TIKTOK:


Get my book, “My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood” from Amazon

Remembering Sydney Williams

sydney williams
sydney williams
Mr. Sydney Williams

Yesterday when I opened my Facebook app, I was stunned to read the news of the passing of Sydney Williams, who was a good friend and a great man. Sydney was the eldest son of Muriel and Mervin Williams, who were lifelong friends of my parents and our families were close.

I wanted to post about Sydney today because he was a leader and activist and until the end, he always spoke his mind and his truth. In 2018, Charlie Clark of the Falls Church News- Press wrote about Sydney’s perspective of growing up in Halls Hill in his column, Our Man in Arlington. Here’s an excerpt for you:

A commemoration of a different sort sprang up spontaneously on the Facebook page “I Grew Up in Arlington, Va.”

Sydney Williams, a 68-year-old Washington-Lee High School graduate now living in West Bay, Cayman Islands, lit up the site with bittersweet recollections of growing up in Hall’s Hill. Some of his posts stirring up memories of segregation were “liked” by 300 or 500 Arlington alumni.

“Hall’s Hill was a self-contained community. As children we did not have to venture out for much,” wrote Williams, who has a master’s in theology and worked in corrections in Virginia. “Ms. Allen’s store sold everything a kid could want — two-for-a-penny cookies, cold soda, fried bologna sandwiches, chips. If you did not want to walk down from the playground, you could go to Mr. Montrose’s bus (converted into a store). Hall’s Hill [was] self-sustained, walled-off, isolated, safe and secure. Segregation was great!”

Williams did not mean the Jim Crow laws and customs were fine. From 1950 to 1962, Hall’s Hill was “like a county within a county. I could not go to the movies [or] the pools” or use the close-by Arlington Hospital, he noted.

“When I attended Stratford [Junior High], we still were not totally accepted as blacks,” he wrote. “I was the only black on Stratford’s basketball team…. Every night I had to walk through the white neighborhood in the dark by myself. I moved at a fast pace through dark places. I did not feel safe until I got to Lee Highway Peoples Drug Store.”

Williams pays tribute to his grandfather, Edward T. Morton, one of the first black doctors from Hall’s Hill. “We had black educators, professional race car drivers, dentists, [and] excellent athletes,” he continued. Other colorful characters were called Popcorn, Chick or Mother Goose, and Pop Burrel. “Pop provided softball equipment for us before” before the Recreation Department would, he said. Often saluting, Pop “would dress in his World War II uniform and march to the playground with a burlap bag of balls and bats and gloves for everybody. The only catch to him providing the equipment was he had to umpire. He was the worst.”

“Even though it may appear that because of the racial climate of the times that it was hard or bad or unfair, that is not the case. Our parents prevented and shielded us from even thinking it was bad. Our childhood was wonderful, funny and interesting.”

Williams does not minimize segregation. But he added, “Please don’t feel bad for us or apologize for what we had to go through. The truth is it made me the man I am today.”

**

Sydney was a big supporter of my book, website, and the work I am doing to expand the knowledge of the untold history of Arlington’s Black community. When he visited Arlington a few years ago, he graciously granted an interview for this blog. I am sharing the interview again today to help remember Syd.

My condolences to Sydney’s wife, Floretta, and his daughter, Indigo. Much love.

Sydney was a force in the Universe and he will definitely be missed by so many people who loved and respected him. He positively impacted and educated thousands as a thought leader, a minister, a counselor, and a friend.

Roundup: Halls Hill History

Interviews and Articles

I am getting ready for new interview projects on an NPR show and I am super-excited. I was asked to provide a roundup of any interviews or articles on my work to spread Halls Hill history and related projects since my book, My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood was published in late 2018. I decided to share this list of highlights with my website family. I hope you can check them out if you’re unfamiliar.

Stay tuned for more information about the upcoming interview right here on HallsHill.com!

Alliance for Housing Solutions

Stay Arlington: Spotlight

Arlington for Everyone

ArlingtonNow: Progressive Voice Column

Curious About Our Roots Radio Show/Podcast

Arlington Connection: It’s a Beautiful Day in the (Hall’s Hill) Neighborhood in Arlington

The Roanoke Times: Gibson: Virginia’s untaught history

Arlington Magazine: Once There Was a Segregation Wall in Arlington

Arlington Historical Society: Learn From This Place

Dennis Price Radio Show

Our Man in Arlington: Charlie Clark

Arlington Magazine: You Want to Build It Where?

WHUR-FM Radio: Taking It to the Streets Segment

WDVM-TV: Flash Floods Damage Segregation Wall

Lee Highway Alliance: Renaming Lee Highway Video

Cigar Box Project Video

Cigar Box Guitar Project from Kenmore Middle School on Vimeo.

Inside NOVA: Cigar Box Project Article

Get my book, “My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood” from Amazon

Were Our Communities the Foundation of Our Black Power?

Growing Up Confident in Strong Black Neighborhoods

It’s interesting that many times people think growing up in a segregated neighborhood was a negative experience. Now from an infrastructure perspective, it wasn’t fun. We knew our streets, homes, school books and supplies, were not like those offered to white people. But the love, comfort, connectedness, and confidence we gained was far more important to our growth.

I’ve talked about it in previous blog posts. In my local access cable television show, UNTOLD: Stories of Black Arlington, episode two, which premieres tonight, Sunday, April 4th at 9 PM, my sister Lydia Jones Cole speaks about one of her perspective’s on segregation and racism and it’s affect – or lack of – growing up in the strong Black neighborhoods of Arlington.

Clip from UNTOLD: Stories of Black Arlington S1: E2, Lydia Jones Cole, Author, “You Must Be a Jones”

The show features Lydia speaking about her book, “You Must Be a Jones: A Family Memoir,” and Dr. Alfred O. Taylor, Jr. Author of “What an Amazing Journey!” His journey and family history really is amazing! Both books include their perspective on growing up in segregated Arlington and so does our conversation. I hope you can join me this evening. Watch on Comcast channel 69 or Verizon channel 38 in Arlington, Virginia, or streaming live on the Arlington Media homepage.



NOTE: UNTOLD premieres Sunday, April 4th at 9 PM, will also air on Monday, April 5th at 8 PM, and Friday, April 9th at 3 PM.

Get my book, “My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood” from Amazon

UNTOLD TV Show Returns Soon!

Episode Two Features Arlington Authors

I am excited to announce that after an unexpected delay, the Arlington Independent Media television show, UNTOLD: Stories of Black Arlington will return to the airwaves later this month.

The next episode features Dr. Alfred O. Taylor, Jr. and Ms. Lydia Jones Cole, who have both recently authored biographies about growing up and living in Black Arlington. As soon as the episode is scheduled, I will update everyone on the email list and via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Host and producer Wilma Jones, left, Dr. Alfred O. Taylor, Jr., top right, Lydia Jones Cole, lower right.

Dr. Taylor’s second book is, What an Amazing Journey: To God Be the Glory which he will discuss in the episode. Dr. Taylor really does have an amazing story, and I can’t wait for him to share it with you on this episode.

Dr. Taylor’s second book.

Lydia Jones Cole is my sister and her new book gives you a deeper look into our immediate family, You Must Be a Jones: A Family Memoir during the period when the seven of us kids were growing up. It’s her perspective of life in Black Arlington, and I must say, I really like her book. In the show, she’ll tell us all about why she penned the memoir.

The cover of You Must Be a Jones.

Catch a little of the show in this interview clip below.

Lydia Jones Cole

The interviews for episodes three and four have been recorded and will be delivered to the skilled editor, TL Wilson before the end of this month. Look for those shows in April and May. I’m back on track with lots more to come in 2021.

I hope you’ll be watching as UNTOLD returns!

Buy My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood at AMAZON!

Swimming in Black Arlington

Racism in the Water

Listen to the blog post, “Swimming in Black Arlington.”

I love to swim. I learned at around six years old at the Baptist Center Camp in Gainesville, VA. My best friend’s uncle was the camp lifeguard. At that age, I was only allowed to visit the camp with my friend when her grandfather came to service the pool on weekends. I naturally “took” to the water and over a few visits in the summer, I learned how to swim.

I recently began to regularly workout at the Arlington Aquatic Centers at the two Arlington high school facilities near my home, Washington-Liberty, and Yorktown. It’s great exercise and it also allows me to have a way to meditate, thereby killing two birds with one stone.

As I counted my sets in the water yesterday evening, I began to think about the fact that I didn’t learn to swim in my hometown of Arlington. Racism and discrimination permeated every facet of Black children’s access to recreation facilities, whether playgrounds, amusement parks, or pony rides. But as I began to read more about our access to pools, I was surprised by the level of hate and violence Black people endured just because they wanted to enjoy a dip in the pool. The effects of this racism endure today.

There was one public pool in Arlington where Black people could swim when I was a child, and that was the Veterans Memorial YMCA Pool in Green Valley. The “Y” opened in 1949. The building had a Community Room where they had dances and showed movies for the neighborhood youth. But because we lived on Halls Hill and didn’t have any relatives in that neighborhood, I only went swimming at the “Y” during Arlington Recreation summer camp day trips.

The first pool in Arlington was opened in 1924 at the Army-Navy Country Club off of South Glebe Road. As Charlie Clark details in his Falls Church News-Press column, Our Man in Arlington, “Arlington’s postwar boom brought subdivision membership associations. Arlington Forest got there first in 1954, with its handsome pool nestled below the Carlin Springs Road. Dominion Hills Pool on Wilson Blvd. wrote its bylaws in 1955 and built on the site of the 19th-century Powhatan Springs. My own Overlee Community Association formed on Lee Highway in 1957.” These private pools did not allow Black people to join when I was a child.

Pools in D.C. provided an alternate option for Black youth to swim. The Negro Recreation Section of Arlington County used to take children to the East Potomac Park swimming pool at Hains Point on day trips in the 1950s. In communities across America, pools were just another example of discrimination that Black people endured just trying to enjoy life.

I was stunned to read about the desegregation of pools being the cause of the first “Race Riot” in Washington, DC! In 1949 after the Anacostia Pool was desegregated Black swimmers were attacked by Whites. The aftermath of these uprisings across the country against Black people trying to swim in pools with White people was described in the book, Con­tested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America,  “millions of white Americans who once swam in public for free began to pay rather than swim for free with Black people; desegregation in the mid-fifties coincided with a surge in backyard pools and members-only swim clubs. In Washington, D.C., for example, 125 new private swim clubs were opened in less than a decade following pool desegregation in 1953

In 1973 Arlington opened its first public pools at the three high schools. It took a long time for the County government to approve the new pool system, and I’m sure in the early years when it was considered, interracial swimming was one reason to delay. I am proud to say I was an employee at W-L pool under the late Don Quesada, the pool manager, for quite a few years as a teenager. Although I didn’t learn to swim in an Arlington pool, I am happy to be able to get my swim on today in the public pool.

Segregation Q&A

One Impact of Telling Your Story

Every so often when a blog post gets a lot of traction, I receive messages from people I knew in the past. One interaction with a former elementary school friend was the subject of the blog a few weeks ago. As a result, more people from my past are reaching out to me.

I received one Facebook message from an elementary school classmate. Note, I said a classmate. We weren’t friends, and honestly, I don’t remember her. But she remembered me. After an introductory exchange, she posed a few questions. 

The Facebook message I received from a former elementary school classmate.

My initial reaction was, “I’m not responding to this.” My second thought was to turn the questions around and ask her the same things from my perspective. How did you feel about Black students coming to your school? Was it scary? Why? Were you mad at everyone Black?

Then I took a few breaths and decided that I would answer the questions in my blog. Pre-COVID after speaking engagements people would ask questions like these during the Q&A. And truthfully, since I wrote a book and continue to write about these issues, I decided to share my answers.

How did it make you feel to go to a desegregated school then? 

I missed my old school, teachers, staff (my mom was a lunch lady at Langston), and friends who were assigned to different schools. I was not looking forward to attending the new school in any way. I knew I had no choice in the matter. One interesting note was I had to take a bus to school, which was a new experience. 

My sisters and brothers had attended Stratford Junior High School with White students following their respective promotions from Langston. I always knew that I would go to school with White students one day. I just did not expect it to be so soon, in second grade. 

I didn’t think that attending a White school was going to be better than going to Langston. I knew the books, desks, balls, and art supplies would probably be better because even in the first grade I knew the government always gave Black people the worst version of anything available. But I knew I would miss the feeling of family that we had at Langston, where everyone knew everyone, and many of us were related. 

Was it scary? 

I don’t remember being scared at all. In my comparison based on what I knew about White people, I didn’t expect it to be more fun or exciting. Everything I personally knew about White people came from television. And at six years old, the family life I saw on tv did not touch the experiences I had at my home. They may have had a bigger house, a color tv, and a community with paved streets and sidewalks. But the home and community life I knew was full of experiences that were never shown on television in those days. Granted, not all of them were good, but that’s true of all homes and neighborhoods.

The way White children played on television didn’t appear to be as much fun as the things my friends and I did. Except for the fact that they could go places that we were not allowed to enter. Parks. Playgrounds. Pools. Movie theaters. But integrated schools weren’t going to change that. I wasn’t going to be able to join the Overlee Community pool. Nor was I going to be able to go swimming at Lake Barcroft. 

Allowing 300 Black students to attend five White schools wasn’t really going to change our life for the better.  Our neighborhood school, our beloved Langston, now educated kindergartners, both White and Black students. The government wouldn’t let us continue to use the building as a neighborhood school because the White parents didn’t want to send their students to a school in a Black neighborhood. But now white five year olds were sent to the school?! It was another slap in the face to our community by the school board. 

Were you mad at everyone who was white? 

Why would I be mad at White people?! 

From my perspective, it was White people who didn’t like Black people. Initially, I didn’t know any White people to be mad at them. 

I was a happy child. I was spoiled by my parents, six siblings, aunts, and uncles. I had a large community of people who thought I was a great kid. I had lots and lots of friends. As a little kid, I lacked nothing because my life was full. The adults in our community made sure that although we couldn’t go everywhere, we had the things that mattered most. So I wasn’t mad at White people, nor did I envy them. I felt like my life was better. They may have had more money. But there were Black people in my community who had more money than my family, so that didn’t mean a lot. After I began to get to know some of the White kids at my school, I knew I didn’t need to be mad at anyone. The type of family I had, I knew everybody didn’t have. 

I didn’t understand then, and I still don’t understand now, why people don’t like other people because they are different. My mom told me that “it takes all kinds,” when I would ask her about someone being different. Explaining that God made people different, that no two people ever in existence would be exactly the same. 

My perspective as a child was that the government was designed to keep Black people down. To keep us below White people in every way. But I knew that was only because they had power. At six years old, I was well aware of institutional, systemic racism, although it didn’t have a name.

Image from the National Museum of African American History and Culture

I knew Black people were just like White people and honestly, I thought we were better. I knew we had more style. I thought our music was better. I knew our church services were better. And the more I became exposed to other things created by Black people, I knew that no other group of people was better than us. Then I began to feel like maybe White people wanted to keep us down, because they were afraid that if (when) we came into our own, we could potentially exceed their accomplishments. 

What happened to your old school and the teachers who taught there?

I talked about that in this blog post. Here’s a little piece:

The final decision was made to disenfranchise the Black students and the Halls Hill community. In June 1966, Langston was closed as a neighborhood elementary school. Proposal 6 was approved. The 300 students were transferred to five White elementary schools. This was because the School Board succumbed to pressure from White parents concerned about Black children comprising the majority of students at any of the previously Whites-only schools. The School Board made sure that Black children would not exceed 35 percent of the school population.

The Halls Hill community was denied a neighborhood school, unlike every other established Arlington community. However, the School Board assigned kindergarten classes to the Langston building – both White and Black children! That decision was an insult to the Halls Hill community. And as my old elementary school friend, King Prather’s message advised, the influence of two Black males teachers in elementary school impacted him greatly. How many White children could have been positively impacted by the influence of the Langston teachers and administrators?

On the Arlington Public Schools website the information about Langston is not included in the history of desegregation of schools.

In Closing

One of my favorite poems about Black people, our families, and community perspective is Nikki-Rosa by Nikki Giovanni. It speaks so clearly of the opinion of many Black people who grew up in segregated neighborhoods in America. The opening and closing stanzas are:

Childhood remembrances are always a drag

If you’re Black

You always remember things like living in Woodlawn

With no inside toilet

And if you become famous or something

They never talk about how happy you were to have

Your mother

All to yourself… 

…And I really hope no white person ever has cause

To write about me

Because they never understand

Black love is Black wealth and they’ll

Probably talk about my hard childhood

And never understand that

All the while I was quite happy

Buy My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood at AMAZON!

The Black Church on Halls Hill

Henry Louis Gates’ PBS Special and Companion Book Bring Back Memories

Listen to “The Black Church on Halls Hill.”

In mid-January, I read the PBS.com blog announcing the two-part special, “The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song.” Like most Black Americans who grew up in the Black church, the words to the subtitle were immediately familiar as the first lines of the chorus of a favorite hymn, Blessed Assurance. I was excited because I knew Dr. Gates would present this subject with the reverence and importance it was due. The Black church was the foundation upon which so many of the advances in Black American life was built. Many of us in the Black community know this fact. It is past time for this important information to be brought into the mainstream of American history.

I watched with anticipation when the show premiered. As the stories were told and songs and experiences of our ancestors were displayed before me on the screen, I remembered my personal experience in the churches of Halls Hill. My mom and dad were faithful members of Mt. Salvation Baptist Church, and Calloway Methodist Church, respectively. They grew up in those churches and after they married, they both continued their service and faith journeys at their “home” churches. I and my siblings grew up in the same churches as our parents. My mom took the seven children with her to Sunday School and 11 AM morning service every week. (We all went to Calloway for anniversaries, special programs and events, and of course, Vacation Bible School.)

Rev. N. R. Richardson, who became pastor of Mt. Salvation in 1931. This pic was taken in 1954. My mom is fourth from the left.

When I remember going to Mt. Salvation as a young child, this picture is the vision I see in my mind. If the church was open, my mom was probably there. By the time I was a kid, she was the Superintendent of the Sunday School, the Church Clerk, sang in the Senior Choir, served on the Senior Usher Board, and more. And her level of service was not unusual. This was the norm. It was true of most of my friend’s parents as well. At Calloway, my dad was on the Trustee Board, Financial Secretary for many years, and was a Senior Usher, too. Dr. Gates reflected on this characteristic in the documentary. That’s how people in the Black churched rolled. They served.

A picture of the Calloway Trustee Board from the Centennial Celebration Program in 1966. My dad is second from the right.

The church was the center of our life and faith was the foundation of our home. The churches in our segregated neighborhoods filled the gap in our racist society. Black people did not have equal access to education, social, and or entertainment opportunities. The Black church is where we planned and strategized. As the documentary described it, the Black church played the “bedrock role as the site of African American survival and grace, organizing and resilience, thriving and testifying, autonomy and freedom, solidarity and speaking truth to power.”

This is definitely true for the role the Black Church played in Arlington. The first Black church established in Arlington in Freedman’s Village was the Old Bell Church, which became Mt. Zion Baptist Church, which still stands in the Green Valley neighborhood. The church members set the tone for all the Black churches that would follow to focus on faith, responsibility, education, and organizing their members for the betterment of the entire community. Combining faith, praise, and worship with a focus on social justice and equality. And now in 2021, it remains important work that many Black churches continue to do today.

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About Wilma Jones
About Wilma Jones

Wilma Jones is an author, speaker and the CEO of Wilma J, LLC, a business consulting company. Wilma teaches people the tools to develop a positive mindset in order to accomplish more both professionally and personally. She’s dynamic, funny, insightful and for real.

About HallsHill.com

HallsHill.com is a virtual space for people who want to reminisce, connect, collaborate, share and smile as they read, see and experience the magic of the Halls Hill neighborhood. The book, My Halls Hill Family centers on my family and our experience on Halls Hill from the early 1900’s through the 1960’s. Halls Hill really was more than a neighborhood.

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