24 Years is a Long Time to Desegregate

24 Years is a Long Time to Desegregate

Click above to listen to the blog post.

The murder of George Floyd, the experience of Christian Cooper, and the outright racism of the president, is having an impact in multiple ways in our country. One thing the protests in the streets of America, from big cities to small towns, is changing is the way a lot of people think about American History. Folks are learning about Black Wall Streets, in Tulsa and other states. They are learning about the reason statutes to honor Confederate losers were installed all over the South following Reconstruction. They are learning about a lot of racist and evil actions that were taken all over this country to keep Black people down since the enslaved Americans learned that they had been freed.

I am getting a lot of interest from people on social media about my book, which provides a history of the Halls Hill neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia. The levels of Jim Crow racism, discrimination, and institutional racism Black Arlington residents endured and overcame that I describe in the book is eye-opening to some who don’t understand the level of racism Black people endure(d) in Arlington. The actions those Black Arlingtonians took and the courage they showed to impact change helped make this County what it is today. But we still have far to go, as the current environment shows us. In schools and communities, I am encouraged with the curiosity people are showing to learn and do more.

I must admit that I think to myself, FINALLY.

There are so many aspects of Black History in Arlington that are not well known.

I wanna start here: It’s time to admit that the reason students in Arlington County Public Schools are not taught about the real Black History that happened in this County is because of institutional racism.

The School Board has never acknowledged the ugly past of the real story of the steps that led to desegregation. There is an annual program to commemorate the desegregation of Virginia Public Schools which happened in Arlington at Stratford Junior High School on February 2, 1959. But there is no discussion about the full truth that efforts for desegregation began in 1947 and did not end until 1971. Even now some schools in North Arlington are becoming even more segregated with the latest school boundary changes. I learned just days ago that critical programs for children with IEPs are offered at some Arlington elementary schools but not at Drew Elementary School, a school that serves a large contingent of Black and Brown children and has been consistently disenfranchised by the Arlington Public School leadership and the School Board for decades. Drew was one of the last segregated schools in Arlington County in 1971. Yes, you read that correctly. 1971.

Sorry, I digress. Let me stay on point. A more comprehensive description of Arlington school desegregation.

It began with Constance Carter, a resident of the Green Valley neighborhood. Her family sued the Arlington County School Superintendent and the Arlington School Board in 1947. She wanted to enter Washington-Lee High School because Hoffman-Boston, the segregated school for Blacks did not offer the advanced courses which she wanted to enroll. At that time, Hoffman-Boston was not an accredited school. Graduates could not attend college with their diploma. Two other Black students filed suit against the County in September 1949. All these cases were denied, but by October 1949, Arlington County was paying for 33 Black students to attend a vocational school in Manassas, rather than allow them to take the courses at Washington-Lee High School.

Court cases, rulings, and appeals continued across Virginia and other Southern states until some cases were combined and appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling was made on May 17, 1954. But that did not deter Virginia or Arlington County from their efforts to deny equal education to their black constituents. The NAACP filed more lawsuits in Virginia than any other state to force integration following the Supreme Court ruling. The Arlington lawsuit was filed on May 17, 1956, exactly two years after the Brown ruling.

U.S. Senator Harry Byrd and his cronies developed the legislative strategy for “Massive Resistance,” to keep Virginia Public Schools segregated. This was an organized effort to defy the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court. By the summer of 1958 the federal lawsuit for Arlington, Thompson v. County of Arlington School Board had over 30 student plaintiffs. The School Board lost ruling after ruling. They filed appeal after appeal to deny, then delay as long as possible, the day of desegregation. Finally on February 2, 1959, four Black students were allowed to enroll in Stratford. Desegregation trickled after that date, with students from North Arlington offered more opportunities to enroll in formerly all-white schools over time. The School Board closed John M. Langston School in 1966, the neighborhood elementary school in the Halls Hill community, rather than have White students go to school in a Black community. (Arlington’s answer is ALWAYS to bus Black students to achieve desegregation.) More importantly, the County continued to segregate Black students at Drew and Hoffman-Boston Elementary Schools.

As an excerpt from an Arlington County publication states, “By 1969, Arlington’s junior and senior high schools were all desegregated. Hoffman-Boston Junior-Senior High School had closed in 1964, and Black students were placed in formerly all-white schools. At the elementary school level, however, there were still two schools that were virtually entirely Black.” After yet another series of lawsuits, Arlington finally desegregated by again busing ONLY the Black students to formerly all-white schools in 1971. It took 24 years to fully desegregate this County’s schools. Such a shame. Over 17 years after the U.S Supreme Court ruling.

It’s time to acknowledge the full history. Warts and ugly scars along with the celebration of the small steps we are continuing to take toward equal education for all in Arlington County Public Schools.

To my old readers, yes, I am stepping out of the “Halls Hill History” box a little bit. But its past time to tell the history and share the stories with a new intention and mission. So every Sunday I am going to share a little bit of the history of this County from my perspective. Some things will be from my Halls Hill book. But look out for other historical information I think needs to be shared from any part of Black Arlington.

We can start a conversation here on the blog. Just comment below.

Oh, if you’re a troll, you’ll be blocked. Only thoughtful, insightful, intelligent conversation allowed.

Have you visited the Halls Hill Style store on Shopify?
Get yourself some gear -> https://halls-hill-style.myshopify.com

The Annual Pink Tea

Mount Salvation Ladies Auxiliary Pink Tea

The Ladies Auxiliary to the Trustee Board’s Annual Pink Tea

Let’s go back in history a bit in the Black Church in America. Back in the day. Especially in the South. Before women preachers in the pulpit. Before women were appointed to the Trustee Board. Remember back when there was the Ladies Auxiliary to the Trustee Board?

Well, if you lived on Halls Hill in the 1950’s and 60’s the Ladies Auxiliary at Mount Salvation Baptist Church was that organization. And you may not have remembered the group, but you never forgot their annual fundraiser, The Pink Tea!

Every year in the spring in the Langston Elementary School Multipurpose Room, the ladies of the Mount Salvation Baptist Church Ladies Auxiliary to the Trustee Board would show off and show out! They beautifully decorated the room, and presented tables full of delectable finger foods and appetizers to enjoy. The auxiliary members formed teams or groups to plan their menus and work to make their table the best of the event.

This is me, right behind Rev. James E. Browne (back to camera), in the serving line at a Pink Tea event.

I absolutely LOVED the Pink tea. I looked forward to the event every year. My mom, Idabel Jones teamed with her two best friends, Patience Spriggs and Rosa Hyson (known as our Aunts Pat and RoRo) to make their best recipes every year. Rev. James Browne, was like an unofficial judge, and all the kids would see what he had on his plate because all the ladies wanted him to taste their food. At least that’s the way I remember it.

It wasn’t just a “church event.” It was a neighborhood event. It didn’t matter what church you attended, or if you even went to church. Folks attended and supported because that’s was the way of our community.

A beautifully decorated table at the Pink Tea back in the mid-1960’s.

As I described in the book,

“The churches on Halls Hill thrived in the 1960s. Mount Salvation was under the longtime pastoral leadership of Rev. Richardson, and the sanctuary was packed every Sunday. New ideas and events to raise money and keep the church flourishing were implemented by men, women, and the youth leadership. One of the women’s events was an annual pink tea. Groups of women would partner and develop a “table menu,” with each woman cooking a “tea-worthy” delicacy for the afternoon. It was held in the multi- purpose room of Langston. My mom was involved, along with all the other women of the church. The room was decorated beauti- fully, with multiple shades of pink with cream or white. Guests used cocktail plates to taste the flavors offered on each table.

Although there wasn’t an official winner determined, the women who prepared the best-tasting dishes were easy to spot, as their food was on everyone’s plates!”

My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood
Wilma at the Pink Tea. Yes, that’s me. I remember the dress!

I don’t think I ever missed a year at the Pink Tea when we were church members there. Those events are wonderful memories from my Halls Hill childhood.

Do you have memories of the Mount Salvation Baptist Church Ladies Auxiliary to the Trustee Board’s Annual Pink Tea?

Do You Remember Miss Allen’s Store?

Do You Remember Miss Allen’s Store?

Known as the longest continually operating business in the Halls Hill community, Miss Allen’s Store was originally called, “Allen’s Store,” when it opened in the early 1900’s. The owners were a married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Wash Allen.

As I described in “My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood,”

Close to “The Bottom,” at 1821 North Columbus Street, Wash Allen and his wife, Rose, operated Allen’s Store, which was the longest continuously open business on Halls Hill. Mr. Wash was a good friend of our Uncle Dede’s. After Mr. Wash’s death, his wife, whom everyone called “Miss Allen,” operated the store and the name eventually morphed into “Miss Allen’s Store.” You could get freshly sliced lunch meat, including bologna, liverwurst, hog’s head cheese, and more. The store had penny candy, potato chips, pork rinds, beef jerky, and those big, deep, round, ice-filled coolers that you dug down into to get a supercold soda from the bottom. And, of course, jars on the counter held sour and dill pickles and pickled pigs’ feet.

A few months after my mom died on Thanksgiving Day 2017, my siblings and I got together to go through family papers and photographs. Each picture or document brought back a flood of memories and lots of discussion. So much laughter and shared stories were exchanged in those hours. As the hours went by and we went through the boxes, one picture brought us all back to Miss Allen’s Store:

My cousins, Cornell and Jay Washington at Mrs. Allen’s Store, probably in the mid-1960’s.

Oh my goodness, we howled when we saw this pic! They look so cute!

In case you don’t know them, this is Jay and Cornell Washington, two of my dad’s nephew’s sons. The pic was taken in the mid-1960’s, I am guessing, based on how old they look. The Washington family lived about a block away from our house. Like all the neighborhood kids, we all hung out playing on the playground together. Then all the kids would go to Miss Allen’s to spend our pennies. We also ran errands for our parents because Mrs. Allen knew us all and we were safe to run to the store with our siblings and friends.

We then began to remember stories about our experiences and memories of Miss Allen’s Store. The Rock Creek Fruit Punch. Who else hated Wise Potato Chips? What was the best penny candy? And how good that bologna tasted, freshly sliced on that big green meat slicer that is in the pic behind my cousin’s up on the counter?!

My sister, Audrey’s first job was at Mrs. Allen’s. Mine was, too! Who else worked at Mrs. Allen’s? What are your memories? Share in the comments below.

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.

My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood

Click here ->>> Amazon

Click here ->>> Barnes and Noble

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.