The Arlington Historical Society, in collaboration with the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington (BHMA), announces a new Arlington history project: Memorializing the Enslaved in Arlington. The project aims to recover the largely unknown history of the county’s enslaved population and to chronicle their lives. This project will help bring African American experiences to light, confront a difficult history, and honor our shared humanity.

August 2022 Update

This project has just received a much needed infusion of funding from Virginia Humanities. The Arlington Historical Society received $5,000 to be used exclusive toward funding this project. The Historical Society, in partnership with Arlington Public Schools and the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington is in the first phase of a longer-term effort to identify the men, women, and children who were enslaved in Arlington County; to uncover what can be learned about their lives; and to memorialize their lives through markers installed in locations County-wide.

According to a Virginia Humanities press release, the grants totaling $153,200 are going to 18 nonprofit organizations across Virginia and in California and New York. This was the only Virginia Humanities grant awarded in Arlington County.

“This round of grants reaches from Arlington and Fairfax in Northern Virginia to Cape Charles on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, and to Konnarock in Southwest Virginia,” said Matthew Gibson, the executive director of Virginia Humanities. “They support projects by museums, libraries, historical societies, and historic sites that are the cultural centers of rural, suburban, and metropolitan communities across the state.”

Virginia Humanities, August 2, 2022

A Community Partnership

The project was inspired by longtime Arlingtonian Tim Aiken, a Glencarlyn resident who read an article by Michele Norris printed in 2021 in The Washington Post. In the article, she proposed marking the locations where slavery occurred by placing stumbling stones. German citizens use such stones to bear witness to locations where victims of the Holocaust lived.

Stones somewhat similar to these, would provide the names of the enslaved and whenever possible, birth and death dates and conditions of their toil.

In partnership with the Arlington Public Schools, AHS will develop teaching materials on the history of slavery in the county and a website with stories, documents, and an interactive map of areas where the enslaved lived and toiled. Memorial markers linked to the website will be placed at these locations with the names of those held in bondage.

AHS and BHMA have begun making this a reality. Here’s What’s Been Done So Far:

  • Teams of researchers are finding the names and history of enslaved individuals who lived in the county.
  • Arlington Public Schools will teach about slavery in Arlington in certain middle and high schools. Students will help with research and development of the project and help create an interactive website.
  • AHS continues raising money to fund the program.
  • Program managers are exploring applications to map the locations where the enslaved lived.

You Can Help

  • Share family stories and history with us, especially those with deep roots in Arlington, with our researchers
  • Help conduct research
  • Enter data
  • Write about findings
  • Help us apply for grants
  • Network with your friends and family about the project and spread the word.

If you would like to volunteer or need additional information, contact: