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:


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This Week in Halls Hill History: The Origin of Langston School

Audio: The Origin of Langston School

In 1924 children in the segregated Halls Hill neighborhood of Arlington County attended the Sumner School on north Culpeper street. It was a one-story frame building with two classrooms and one office. It was severely overcrowded and chronically underfunded. I was unable to determine when the Sumner School opened but in 1913 the principal was Mr. L.C Baltimore, and the two teachers were Mrs. E. B. Holmes and Miss B.V. Thomas.

It was well known that segregated schools in Virginia and the other former Confederate states did not provide a decent education for Black students. This was true in Arlington, where Black schools received only hand-me-down books and supplies from white schools. The facilities were woefully undersized. Residents of Halls Hill had requested a new school building from the County government for years before 1920 with no progress.

A collaboration between Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald created the project to build “Rosenwald Schools,” to educate Black students to attempt to allay the chronic underfunding of schools in the Southern states. Booker T. Washington was an educator and philanthropist, and the founder of the Tuskegee Institute. Julius Rosenwald was a clothier who became a part-owner and president of Sears, Roebuck, and Company. Their collaboration required both the Black community and the white local government to contribute to funding the school construction. The local school board was required to operate and maintain the schools. Almost 5,000 schools were built in the former Confederate states and Maryland, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Missouri. These schools educated almost one-third of black students in the country.

As noted in Wikipedia, “The school building program was one of the largest programs administered by the Rosenwald Fund. Using state-of-the-art architectural plans designed by professors at Tuskegee Institute, the fund spent more than four million dollars to build 4,977 schools, 217 teacher homes, and 163 shop buildings in 883 counties in 15 states, from Maryland to Texas. The Rosenwald Fund was based on a system of matching grants, requiring white school boards to commit to maintenance and black communities to aid in construction.”

The Halls Hill community took advantage of the collaboration and the Rosenwald Fund opportunity. They raised $500 to contribute toward the construction of an elementary school. The project was approved for funding after the Arlington County School Board agreed to contribute toward the construction of the building. The local school board consented to operate and maintain the facility. The Washington Post archives screenshots below report that 96 years ago this week, on Friday, August 15, 1924, the Arlington County school district opened bids for the construction of the building.

On Sunday, November 8, 1925, only 451 days later, the school was dedicated and subsequently opened to the community’s children. My dad was one of the proud first graders to enter the building that first day. The Washington Post’s Arlington Bureau reported on the dedication as seen in the screenshot below.


Screenshot from the Washington Post Archives.

As described in an excerpt from my book, My Halls Hill Family, “More than 1,000 people attended the installation of the cornerstone for the new school, to be named John M. Langston School after the abolitionist, attorney, educator, activist, diplomat, and politician who was the first dean of Howard University Law School. The Grand Order of Odd Fellows Hopewell Lodge No. 1700 laid the stone. The lodge was a prominent membership organization on Halls Hill. Led by Moses Jackson, George H. Hyson, Shirley Snowden, Joseph Bolden, and Horace Shelton, in August 1888, they purchased a one-acre parcel of land on Halls Hill from Basil Hall to build their lodge’s hall.”

Black residents of Arlington neighborhoods worked hard to advocate for themselves and their communities, despite Jim Crow racism and discrimination in Virginia. The importance of Langston, (even though it’s been rebuilt), to the High View Park -Halls Hill community is based on the deep roots of the institution and it’s almost 100 years of history.

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