This video was recorded on October 14, 2021 at one of AHS’s monthly free public events featuring an aspect of Arlington history. Historian and genealogist Steve Hammond discussed the Syphax family, a founding African-American family here in Arlington. Our speaker provides an overview of the Syphax family in a “scenic by-way” of the Syphax family in Virginia and Washington, D.C . He also recounted the lives of long-time Arlington residents William T Syphax and his brother Julian M. Syphax and their impact on both their local communities and the nation and and he will explain how he is related in the family. Mr. Hammond also discussed the reopening of Arlington House and the work he participated in to include the history of both the enslaved and free people who lived there. He also explained why it is important to share these narratives.
Mr. Hammond is a retired federal employee having spent his entire 40-year career as an earth scientist with the United States Geological Survey. He is now a Scientist Emeritus with the agency. He is also a 7th generation member of the Syphax family of Washington, DC. He has participated in a variety of National Park Service programs at the Arlington House – the Robert E. Lee Memorial to highlight the lives of his Syphax ancestors and other enslaved Americans on the estate. He has spoken at the African American Civil War Museum and the historic Decatur House on Lafayette Square both in Washington, DC and has contributed to exhibits at George Washington’s Mount Vernon and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. He has been interviewed by numerous organizations including NPR, C-Span, Civil War Times and most recently was featured in a story on CBS this Morning that talked about the reopening of the Arlington House after a 3-year closure for restoration. His goals are to educate and inspire others to research and document their own family history.
Other genealogy interests revolve around research on the movement of enslaved ancestors to New Orleans, LA where his ancestry covers both enslaved and free people between 1769 to 1900. A primary focus is on the period leading up to and including the Civil War and the Reconstruction era. Steve is a charter member of the Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage, and a member of the Louisiana Historical Society and Friends of the Thomas Balch Library (Loudoun Co. VA) Black History Committee. Steve is a member of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society and serves as the treasurer for the James Dent Walker chapter in the District of Columbia. He also currently serves as a Trustee for the Arlington House Foundation and is a Trustee Emeritus at his Alma mater, Whitman College.
This was one of a series of monthly public events hosted by the Arlington Historical Society courtesy of Marymount University and it’s Department of History and Political Science. This video is one hour and 2 minutes in length.