Interview: Mr. Sydney Williams

sydney williams
sydney williams
Mr. Sydney Williams

Sydney Remembers Growing Up on Halls Hill

This week a true son of Halls Hill joins us to share remembrances of his family and experiences of the neighborhood. Sydney’s grandfather was Dr. Edward T. Morton, the first African-American physician on Halls Hill. He was a leader in the community and everyone who was in the neighborhood respected him. He even ran for a seat on the County Board!

Listen as Sydney shares his stories.

Let me know what you think about the interview in the comments section. I will be back with additional Halls Hill stories, interviews and more.

Interview: Mrs. Mary Scales Koblitz

Wilma Jones interviews Mrs. Mary Scales Koblitz, Nov 2018

Mrs. Mary Scales Koblitz, Halls Hill Elder

I had the honor and pleasure to interview Mrs. Mary Scales Koblitz, a Halls Hill elder who lived on two locations on the ‘Hill prior to moving to South Arlington when her kids were growing up.

She speaks about her memories of Langston Elementary School, lifelong friendships and more. Listen to the interview and comment with her feedback.

More interviews to come. Thanks for being a HallsHill.com visitor!

Interview with WDVM-TV

Screenshot from WDVM-TV
Screenshot WDVM-TV

Things happened really quickly in February. The combination of Black History Month and the commemoration of the 60th year since my brother, Michael Jones, Lance Newman, Ronald Deskins and Gloria Thompson desegregated schools in Arlington created a lot of interest in Halls Hill and the book.

Local television station, WDVM-TV contacted Michael and I and here is the interview.

Thanks to Kiona Dyches, the reporter who had an interest to share the story of our community. It really was more than a neighborhood.

Did You Hear the Podcasts?

HBCU Digest and Choose to Be Curious Interviews

I’m very honored to help spread the story of the Halls Hill community in radio and podcast interviews.


Mr. Jarrett Carter, Sr, host of the Historically Black College and University Digest Podcast and invited me on the show to discuss ‘Halls Hill’ and the Power of Black Communities. The influence of community leaders who were graduates of these important education institutions was important to the young people who had dreams and goals outside the neighborhood. In addition, the importance of the mindset of the people was highlighted. Check it out here —>>> LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW.

Next, the Arlington, Virginia radio station program, “Choose to Be Curious,” hosted by Lynn Borton, featured me in a discussion about being curious about your neighborhood. This talk really nails it when the idea of the importance of saving family and community stories. You can check it out here right now —>>> LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW

More shows are coming soon. Drop a comment below and let me know what you think.

Celebrating 100 Years of Dedicated Service

halls hill watermelon carving fire station 8

Arlington County’s Fire Station 8 Honored at a Community Gala!

halls hill watermelon carving fire station 8

The John M. Langston Citizen’s Association honored the legacy of the 14 brave African-American men who came together in 1918 to start the Halls Hill Volunteer Fire Department. These men and the others who followed in their footsteps to staff what is now Fire Station 8 deserve our thanks and praise. This event was the community’s way of doing just that.

There is a documentary that will be released in the spring to preserve the history and stories. In the meantime, here are a few pics of the crowd.

Crowd selfie.
Wilma at FS8 100th anniversary gala selfie
Crowd selfie two.
Crowd selfie three.

Join the mailing list to receive info about the upcoming documentary!

Helping to Change the Narrative on Race

Wilma Jones at Swanson Middle School

Speaking with Middle School Students About Being a 12 Year Old in 1959

Wilma Jones at Swanson Middle School

This week I had the privilege of presenting my newest workshop for middle school students at Thomas Jefferson and Swanson Middle Schools. I am partnering with Arlington Humanities to help the students discuss life as a 12 year old African American in Arlington in 1959. These workshops are a part of the Changing the Narrative on Race project provided through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to Virginia Humanities, who have funded projects in six localities in Virginia.

The purpose of the grant program is to develop “Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation initiatives across the Commonwealth. In collaboration with community partners, educators, and librarians, Virginia Humanities is developing programs that use stories to empower Virginians in underserved communities in Arlington, Charlottesville, Norfolk, Richmond, Roanoke, and Harrisonburg. These programs will focus on fostering safe opportunities for all to tell their stories and engage with the experiences of others. “

The workshops are based on the experiences of my sibling interviews and periodical research I completed for my book, My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood.” I had a such a great time interacting and engaging these young minds. Many were surprised by the information. But I was surprised and also moved by some areas of the discussion. Every one of the three sessions were different because of the dynamic of energy between the kids and I.

These workshops and keynotes are so important because it helps the stories come alive. We can delve into the details that matter to them. I make sure to prep so I know what is important. Like how? Well, I knew I’d have a good number of pre-teens boys. So most of my geography references were to the fast food spots. They “got” every one. There’s more to come from this engagement with the students next month. I am so looking forward to it!

The purpose of the book is to share these stories with people, both young and old. This is Arlington history. Virginia history. U.S history. Black history. And yes, even Women’s History.

Thanks for the opportunity, Arlington Humanities. Stay turned for more of events in 2019 . I think everyone enjoyed themselves this week. And I know the ancestors were pleased.

Lee Highway Extended to Falls Church 95 Years Ago

New Year’s Day 1924 Brought Big News

Lee Highway is Extended from Halls Hill to Falls Church

I interviewed my dad in 2012 about life on Halls Hill as he remembered it as a young child. One of the things he explained was a big deal was the extension of Lee Highway from Halls Hill to Falls Church. Although he was only around 5 years old, looking back he remembered that for the first time people could drive cars to what was then a pretty rural area.

Prior to the highway extension most people traveled by horse to Falls Church, the Chesterbrook area of McLean, and the what is now the Tyson’s Corner area. When 40 residents of Falls Church endorsed the $40,000 bank loans (from two Georgetown banks) for the state to extend the road, it was proof of how important increasing access to the community was for it’s future growth and relative importance in the area. Arlington paid the interest on the loan.

Lee Highway had been extended from Cherrydale to Halls Hill many years before, making the allowing the neighborhood to thrive from a population growth and for entrepreneurs operating businesses on the Highway. The road was eighteen feet wide with one lane in either direction. It was extended 1.5 miles from Halls Hill to Falls Church. The work was completed on December 23, 1923 but the road was not opened for use until January 14, 1924.

It was during this period that Halls Hill and the route to the community via Lee HIghway became important for the safety of African Americans. Sometimes when traveling from DC to Halls Hill, African Americans were concerned because of the thriving Klu Klux Klan organization in Cherrydale. Many people experienced whites chasing them via car through the Cherrydale area, with taunts and threats of violence for passing through their community, especially after dark. But once the chase reached Culpeper Street, (the only way in or out of Halls Hill at the time) and Fire Station 8, they were safe.

Halls Hill: A Poem by Carolyn June-Jackson

Hall’s Hill

Bordered by George Mason, Glebe Road, and Lee Highway
A closely knit community where Black folks lived and played
From Culpeper to Emerson; numbered streets in between
Proud African-Americans tied to no one’s apron strings

A beautiful oasis surrounded by a Jim Crow County
A community where Black folks owned their property
Mt. Salvation Baptist, Highview Park, and Calloway
Three spiritual havens where we often went to pray

A neighborhood surrounded by the country club’s elite
Yet, Black folks lived a simpler life without outside conceit
A wall divided neighborhoods experiencing neglect
The county looked the other way, showing no respect

Many businesses established by our own entrepreneurs
May not have been wealthy but neither were they poor
Federal, state, and local workers lived on every street
Hicks and Allen’s general stores, we had our own elite

Our Citizens Association was very much concerned
Held monthly meetings and kept residents informed
Joined Martin Luther King in the cause for civil rights
Marched for integration, put an end to racial fights

Langston Elementary is where we earned good grades
Our dedicated teachers ensured that rules were obeyed
When the schools integrated, our parents did not tolerate
Their children at white schools being treated second-rate

Cameron playground where scuffles would break out
Danced to the latest tunes were all teens thought about
Hanging on the corner under dimly lit street lights
Played “Simon Says” during those hot summer nights

Dressed up in the latest fashions was always the rage
House parties attended by those under drinking age
Frequented Suburban Night or Goolby’s Chocolate City
Building razed so long ago by county board committee

The traditional Turkey Bowl held on Thanksgiving Day
Young men and old-timers like joining in the fray
An annual reunion where we love to meet and greet
Rekindling old memories that are always bittersweet

Many homes are torn down or property’s been sold
Young and old have passed away; parents growing old
Hall’s Hill is in transition and will never look the same
Now been overtaken by those with strange surnames

We now sign up on Facebook, just to keep in touch
Talk about the good days and how they meant so much
No matter where we live, no matter what time zone
We’re proud of our village, Hall’s Hill is still our home

©Carolyn June, August 1, 2013

Today in Hall Hills History: IN THE BEGINNING

IN THE BEGINNING

 

My Halls Hill Family Logo Black

Halls Hill was inhabited by former slaves and some free black people following the Civil War. Although black people who were slaves in captured Union territory became free after the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln in 1863.

Halls Hill was known as “Halls Plantation,” prior to the Civil War. Halls Hill was named for its location—a high hill in what had initially been Alexandria County—and the original property owner, Basil (also spelled Bazil, in some writings) Hall. Hall, a white man born in 1806, purchased 327 acres of land in 1850 for approximately $5,000 and started a plantation. Like most plantation owners in Virginia prior to the Civil War, Hall owned slaves to provide manual labor to work the land and animals.

The Halls were well known for the brutal way they managed their slaves. One of their female slaves, Jenny Farr, reached her breaking point with Hall’s wife, Elizabeth. She threw her in the hearth, murdering her. Jenny was convicted and hanged on February 26, 1858.

Hall remarried, and the plantation thrived until the South addressed the issue of slavery. Virginia had voted to secede from the union, and although Hall voted against secession, he did not fare well during the Civil War. His property was the site of many Confederate and Union troop skirmishes, and in August 1861, he fled his home. The Union Army used the site as a camp for the remainder of the war.

Following the war, Hall returned the plantation, which was staffed by laborers. Many of them were freed slaves who lived in rented shacks on the plantation. Hall continued his cruel treatment of the black people who worked on the plantation and was eventually charged with assault and battery and inhuman treatment of black people in his employ in 1866. In the post–Civil War era, the courts in Virginia would not hear any cases brought against white people if black people were the persons harmed. The federal government had established a military court with a provost marshal to adjudicate these cases. Despite sufficient evidence, Hall’s attorney convinced President Andrew Johnson to intercede in the matter. Johnson directed the military provost to drop the case and have it addressed in civil court. Of course, no court in Virginia would proceed with the case, so Hall was never punished.

Hall attempted to sell his land as one lot in 1872 but was unable to make a deal. He then began to sell smaller lots of property to white men. These men established farms using black laborers, who rented shacks on their respective farms. Black people inhabited Halls Hill, but it wasn’t until November 9, 1881, that black people were able to purchase land. Hall sold one acre of his land to Thornton Hyson and Charles W. Chinn for $108 and continued to sell his land to black people until he died in 1888. One other black man, a former slave named Moses Jackson, owned property on Halls Hill in the 1880s. Jackson’s owner gave him the land on what became part of Halls Hill upon his freedom.

There are many descendants of the Hyson, Chinn and Jackson families that lived in Halls Hill for generations. A few still reside there now.

Did you know the about these black men that purchased property to start building this neighborhood?

 

 

The Neighborhood: Where is the Apostrophe, Wilma?!

Hall's versus HallsFor as long as I can remember, there has been a debate about Halls Hill versus Hall’s Hill among community members. I made a self-publishing decision that may irritate the grammar police. I am aware that the word should have an apostrophe to show possessiveness. However, on this project I decided to follow the direction of the older generation in our community.

The county government funded community art projects in the early 2000s. Our neighborhood project, Memory Bricks/The Family, was created by Winnie Owens-Hart in 2004 as the welcoming gateway to our neighborhood.

During the design concept stage, the John M. Langston Citizens Association held a brainstorming session, led by Ms. Hart, with the community. My dad and I attended with about 50 other residents. The question was raised whether to include the apostrophe or not. The overwhelming consensus was to eliminate it. I continue to honor that decision with this book and the Halls Hill project. That’s how I think my daddy would have liked it.

What are your thoughts? Do you write Halls Hill with or without the apostrophe?